I’ve just returned from a fantastic few days at Denman College, full of friendship, laughter, good food and of course lots of sewing, or more precisely, ribbon embroidery.
Denman College is a residential college owned by the Women’s Institute, it’s based in a beautiful Georgian mansion and about 17 acres of grounds in Oxfordshire. It’s open to non members too, but every other year my Federation (North Yorkshire West) organise a visit down there, so two coach loads traveled down on Tuesday for a three night stay. We are thoroughly spoilt there, with homemade biscuits with morning coffee, a delicious lunch, slices of cake with our afternoon tea, three courses for the evening meal…All the rooms are decorated by different federations, so there’s often alot of handiwork in the rooms, such as a patchwork quilt, an embroidered picture or a watercolour. I was in the Humberside room.
There’s always about 5 or 6 courses arranged, but I always do what ever the craft one is, so I’ve done jewelry making, doll making and this year I hit gold with a ribbon embroidery course with Marilyn Pipe
Marilyn is a textile artist, she does beautiful ribbon embroidery, but she also does mixed media courses, bag-making from magazine paper (I know, sounds odd, but they’re really beautiful!) scarf making…
There were seven of us on the course, all newbies to ribbon embroidery, she was a great teacher, full of encouragement, lots of banter between us all made for a great learning environment. Our first job was to paint a plant pot on silk, which to those of us who can’t paint was a scary start, but under Marilyn’s guidance we all managed to end up with something that actually looked like a plant pot!
Then it was time to start embroidering. Silk ribbon is so fine it can be threaded through a needle, even quite wide ribbon, every tiny scrap can be utilised too, so we soon learnt to save every last bit! Our first flower was a rose, these looked really complicated but turned out to be fairly straight forward, we just had to learn to ‘be masterful’ with our silk and twiddle it into shape afterwards!
We learnt how to do leaves, which could then be used to make flower petals, like daisies. We learnt how to make filler flowers from scraps and the importance of embroidering wiggly bits with embroidery thread, these are the ‘frothy’ bits of embroidery round the edges that just soften the effect. I added some french knots and a few beads too to give a bit of light.
I’m really pleased with my pot of flowers, in fact I was so excited I took it down to the framers this morning before I’d had chance to photograph it! I will add a photo as soon as I get it back!
Editor’s note; picture is now back from the framers and as promised, here’s the photos;
Marilyn suggests framing without glass so the embroidery doesn’t get squashed, our house is too dusty for that so the framer suggested a double mount with spacers inbetween;
We had some free time in the afternoons, the weather was glorious (a bit of a shock after the snow and hail last week, now it’s tee-shirt time!!) I spent a peaceful hour wandering round the grounds and the house.
Our second piece of ribbon embroidery was in the style of Monet, so we had the irises, waterlily and willow. The water effect is done by painting bondaweb and then ironing it on, my painting wasn’t as good as I’d have liked, but I’m going to try again at home. The waterlilies were padded out with some french knots behind them to give a nice rounded shape. Embroidery was added with stranded cotton and perle for iris leaves and also the willow.
I really wasn’t sure about this one whilst I was stitching it, but it’s growing on me, I’m planning to have it framed, but it might be hanging in the guest room !
As well as learning the embroidery techniques, we also learnt how to space dye ribbon in the microwave and also how to pad and mount the finished embroidery.
I’m definitely going to do ribbon embroidery again, I really enjoyed the course. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’ve already booked myself onto another course at Denman with Marilyn next year, we’ll be stitching Hollyhocks then!