The latest Travelling Sketchbook project at my Embroiderers Guild starts tomorrow. We were given an A5 sketchbook last month and it has to be ready to swop tomorrow. It seemed ages off but all of a sudden I had two days!
Travelling sketchbooks are a great way of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, the idea is that each person chooses a theme for their book, decorates it and writes an introduction. It is then passed around the group each month and everyone does a little piece of embroidery on the theme to go in the book. At the end of the travels each person has a lovely book full of handwork by their friends. I find it pushes me embroidery-wise as I have to do something on a given theme, you can look for ideas but it does make me think outside the square and design something myself. Over the last couple of years I’ve had to do embroideries on subjects as divers as ‘down the microscope’, mythical beasts, astronomy, walls, chickens…
My theme this time is Christmas. I love Christmas and I thought it would be rather nice to have a sketchbook I can get out each year. I covered the book first, I used a fat quarter I’ve had for years, I love it, it’s a gorgeous rich blue covered with a delicate pattern of silver holly leaves. I lined it with another blue and silver fabric, this time it has stars on it. As a pretty but practical finishing touch I’ve tied it with a silver ribbon, which makes it look like a gift, but also holds it closed. I had just enough fabric left to make a bag to keep it clean.
On the opening pages I just stuck some Christmas card designs, I used to make all my Christmas cards using all sorts of techniques and ideas, here’s just three of them.
I wrote a little introduction to the book, mainly about what I love about Christmas, trying to keep the idea as open as possible so people can stitch anything seasonally appropriate. On the page opposite I include a red-work card my mum stitched for me around 2004. Homemade cards should always be treasured, this one is particularly poignant now as mum is rapidly losing her ability as a needlewoman.
Many years ago I went to a WI workshop on painting snowflakes. This card was the result, I loved it so much I could quite bring myself to give it to anyone! I decided my travelling sketchbook was the perfect home for it.
Finally, my official piece! I was tempted to do another snowflake, but I didn’t think I had quite enough time, I rummaged through my stash and found a Christmas quilting panel (originally from my mums stash!) which included several pictures of chickadees. I decided to cut one out and embellish it with embroidery. This is how it started.
I started off with some straight stitches on the pine-needles, it doesn’t show up that much but I know it’s there and I think it’s just enough.
When I first started the little bird I was matching the thread to the painting, I very quickly realised that this was going to make a very boring embroidery, as the stitches really didn’t stand out enough. I changed over to variegated threads which just added an extra colour or two. I used one of my favourite threads on his head and tail, it’s overall impression is quite dark but includes olive green and violet, it reminds me of the plumage of a mallard duck.
I used several different stitches, fly, feather, lazy-daisy, herringbone, chain, straight stitch and french knots. I think the floss on his chest possibly has a touch too much salmon pink in it, but I just went over with some ecru frech knots to tone it down a bit.
I decided it looked good as a circle, so I used some iron on interfacing on the back to give a bit of stability, cut round the circle and used buttonhole stitch to finish it.
I’m pretty pleased with my embroidery and having the image behind made it pretty quick to sew. I think the theme of the book I’ll have next month is the letter S, so quite a lot of scope, just got to think of an idea!
I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, why not follow the link and see what everyone else has been stitching.