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September 2016

August 2016


I should take my own advice when stitching Kogin patterns. " You should always start in the middle and work the pattern up and down.  I did the first line like that but then thought I would be cute and start at the top to finish the stitching.  You guessed it, I was one stitch out and had to unpick all my work.

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So after giving myself a good telling off I got to and finished the stitching.

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I now have to block the work and make up the bag.  It is now time to start redrawing the pattern for the second kit.


A class I want to try

This week at the Embroiderers' Guild we interviewed a new tutor.  Her speciality is Su Sew embroidery from China.  She is in fact Chinese and served her apprenticeship there.  Up to date she has mainly taught within the Chinese community, as her English isn't good, but now another woman, Helen, who also teaches in her studio, will translate for her.  We plan to have her give her first class at the Guild later this year.

This screen is all stitched in silk.  Some pieces have over 1,000 different shades of threads used in the design.

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Source: wikipedia

I am a keen follower of Chinese History and had done some reading about the embroidery of China.  It is in fact a vast field and although the stitches used have different names, e.g. straight stitch is in fact our satin stitch, The techniques are very similar.  What is different is the philosophy behind the work,  that it has a spiritual aspect.  I have found the same thinking in most forms of Asian embroidery.  In the west there are embroideries done for the church but the actual stitching is seen as a task and not of a spiritual activity although I am sure that a lot of embroiderers who stitch for the church do approach their work as a sacred task.

The other technique I find interesting is how the work is painted or printed onto the fabric in the colours to be use. Today western painting are often used as the source of the design.

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Then the threads, in this case silk, are stitched over the top of this to complete the 'thread painting'.  For the beginner these stitches are not dense but spread out.  It is all very similar to western thread painting used in embroidery and quilting.  I look forward to doing this class.


Samples completed

I have finished my trials of the monograms for the next children's class and learnt quite a few things whilst stitching them.  Over at Mary Corbett's blog she has trialed the same kind of designs but on totally different fabrics and for a different audience.  My samples were stitched with children and their abilities in mind.  Firstly, I couldn't afford good quality linen so had to use a cheap alternative. I choose a patchwork linen which was $20 p.m. the weave was good but the finished fabric was weak and rather thin.  It does come in white, beige and natural, which gives the stitcher a variety of background.

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Mary used a good quality homespun on the back of hers but I found this a bit difficult for kids to stitch through.  I settled on Amour Weft dress making interfacing which is iron on and gives the fabric more weight and doesn't allow shadowing of the stitching. 

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I did have to add another layer of white homespun under the white linen so have reserved this fabric for the volunteers who will be able to handle it.

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The A5 book cover is for the beginners.  I tried stitching a close confetti of seed stitch but found that it looked better spread out and the stitches a bit bigger.  (I have tried to match my stitching to that of the proposed students.) The momogram can be stitched in a range of line stitches that therefore will accommodate the skills of a beginner.  For the A6 book cover I used 2 strands of DMC for the monogram but only one for the embroidery.  I choose simple stitches, lazy daisy, french knots and fly stitch but I am sure that the kids with more experience will come up with a design to suit themselves. 

This project has to be able to be finished at the end of the 2 day class so I have simplified the making up.  I have overlocked all the edges of the linen.  This then only requires the end to be folded over to size, a piece of lining fabric place over this and then the top and bottom seams have to be machined, a 5 minute job.  If they want to they can top stitch around the edge, as I did in the A5 version, to give a neater finish. 

Big sigh of relief that I have finished that job.





Week 4 - Placemats for Charity

This week I have commenced work on the bundle of charm squares that I have accumulated.  You know how it is?   You see this fabric you love but you don't have a project that you want to make out of it but must have some of that fabric?  That's how charm square breed!

When I had sewn most of the pieces I was left with odds and ends.  So I have put all the odds and ends together for these two mats.  I am still working with my walking foot on the machine for the quilting.  Firstly just rows even (almost) distances apart.

Mat 7

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And then the same lines over-sewn with a triangle pattern.

Mat 8

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I used the lines as my point of reference to sew the triangles.

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Living in the wilderness

Years ago I read about this family who escaped from Stalin and settled in Siberia.  They lived a totally isolated life in the wilderness and the fact that caught my interest was that they grew hemp for fibre to make their clothes, much the same as the Kogin stitchers in Japan. In fact hemp was the only fibre that would grow in that climate.   Then by sheer chance I came across this video about the sole surviving member of that family.  She still survives on her own in the wilderness, even caring for another man who lives there and she weaves as well.  It is a sad story but quite inspiring as well.  It is quite long so you will need that cup of tea.



Now that I am feeling better I find it is a lot easier to cope with the count on my Kogin bag and the piece is progressing.

Wipw The other piece is a trial for the next children's class.  I bought Mary Corbett's Monogram e-book and she has kindly given me permission to use it for this class.  The monograms are quite small and I think the smaller children will have problems with the size.  So I have enlarged the design and am trialing an A5 piece as well.

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The other problem is the fabric.  It would be lovely if I could use good quality linen but it is just too costly.  This trial is on handkerchief linen backed with some sheeting.  It seems to be working alright in the A5 size but I'm not sure how the smaller one will go.  I think I will try that in the same fabric but with another interfacing on the back.

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Island Made

We are still having events take place as part of the Quandamooka Festival here and on Saturday I went, with a boat load of others, down to Russell Island.  This was the opening of an exhibition of work by island artists in the local hall there and as it was partly funded by the State Government the return ferry trip only cost $10.00.  As can be imagined it attracted a lot of people from both Stradbroke and Coochiemudlo Islands where the ferry called in.

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Coochie is only a small island so the ferry had to negotiate the moored boats.

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Then it was off at breakneck speed (compared to what we are used to) onto Russell Island.  The islands further down the bay seem very close but it took a good 40mins to get there, even at full speed and there was a cold wind blowing as well.

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Russell Island at one time had quite a large population but after the gap between North and South Stradbroke Island opened up the oyster industry failed and people drifted away.  Also the change in sea currents saw a lot of the southern part of the island washed away.  Still it is a lot bigger than Coochie and closer to the Gold Coast.  It doesn't have the sandy beaches we have and the island is decked in mangroves.

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I have a feeling that the mosquitoes and sandflys could be a problem in summer.

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Many of the houses are built right on the beach.

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Some are nestled in the bush and this island has very rich farming soil.  The main crop seems to be avacados.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.15.28 amWhen we landed we were greeted by some rather 'vintage' cars.

The hire car version.

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And some local lads, looking like local lads everywhere.

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It was a small but interesting exhibition.  With a number of genres included.   Most things were made from locally sourced materials.

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I was interested to see that there were some lovely musical instruments including this one made from kangaroo hide.

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Then there were the inevitable talks by politician and local dignatories but there was also a talk by a local elder.  The people who have lived out on these islands were not removed and put into 'reservations'.  Although having been impacted by white settlement they have managed to hold onto their culture and identity and their great grandparents negotiated with the then government that  schools would be maintained on Stradrooke  and the other large Islands,  Russell and MacCleay, after the missions closed.   This has seen their decendants being able to move into mainstream society whilst still retaining their identity.  That link with country is very strong.  The song lines were sung and danced to open the exhibition by the Quandamooka Dancers.

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All members of the clans, from the youngest to the elders, sing and dance these songs.

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Songs of welcome and goodbye and of the animals with whom we share the earth.

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It was forbidden to speak your own language in colonial times so it is through these songs that they have been able to keep their language and they kindly share all this wonder with us.  Everyone left feeling closer to the land where we live.







These little birds live near water, usually in and around the jetties and wharves.  The little ones on our jetty often fly with the barge all the way over to the island and then back again.  They make their homes up in the rafters or behind signs.  I saw this little one on the Jetty at Russell Island.  He is certainly well fed and very curious.

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And the little yellow eye honey eaters are back at the drain that seems to have clean water.  They shake the water everywhere, just like dogs.

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And Spring can't be too far away because all the Stone Kerlews are mating.

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Week 3 - Place-mats for Charity

These are the last 2 from the left over quilt fabric.  I still have a bit of this fabric left over but I will keep it for later.  After these 2 I'm going to make sure the pieces are straight before I sew them up!  Besides being a donation for charity I am using these pieces to practice my sewing and quilting skills.  I think I have got those mitred corners off now and have found that if I cut my strips 2 1/2" wide it works a bit better.  But those bias joins are still a problem.  The first join, off the mat, is find but the other when I have to sew the ends together on the mat are driving me crazy.  I have dyslexia and not only does this apply to letters and numbers it also includes direction.  I know that the ends have to cut in opposite directions but I end up so confused when I have to sew them.  I think that I will have to keep practicing this one for some time yet till it really 'sinks in'.

Mat 5.

This is quilted with a plain square grid that really shows up that the strips were not straight.  Very uninteresting style of quilting.

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Mat 6

I do love this diamond shape quilting.  It is very traditional but is so pleasing to the eye and the senses.  I can see why it is used over and over again in quilts.

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Still pulling things out of boxes

Even though I have unpacked all the boxes I am still finding odds and ends.  Some of those odds and ends are a set of Scandinavian mats that I stitched back in the 1970's and I remember that back then I had to use a magnifying glass to stitch them.  I was hopeless at cross stitch at school and then I discovered the Danish Embroiderers' Guild in my teens.  I just had to learn to stitch those things.  And I stitched and stitched till everyone one was bored with my cross stitching.  So I gave it away for about ten years until I discovered it again.

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I remember thinking that I would never have anywhere to use these little mats, but, wait long enough and you will find a use for them.  Well a mix up with the furniture I bought has resulted in just that.  I thought that I had ordered a tall boy but a dresser arrived.  It is solid wood and weighted over 70kg.  There is no way I could have sent it back so it has stayed.

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And my little mats are just perfect on the blackbutt wood which is a caramel colour. ( I had all the floors replaced in the same wood when we did the renovation on this house.)  It is so good to finally be able to use these pieces.

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