Featured on the Craftsy blog

Just a quick post to say that a couple of my RSN pieces have been featured by the wonderful Leigh Bowser on the Craftsy blog.

Here's a wonderful introduction to blackwork by Leigh, featuring a section of my Celia Johnson blackwork portrait in progress...


...and here is the low-down on crewelwork, accompanied by a photograph of my completed Jacobean crewelwork embroidery, along with some stunning examples by other stitchers that put me to shame... tut tut, what fluffy twill.



Stitchgasm


Celia Johnson (and her backside) were featured on the Mr X Stitch website on Saturday! And what's more, Leigh of LeighLaLovesYou who curates the Stitchgasm feature described Celia as "flawless"! Now, I know that isn't true, but I'll take a stitchy compliment when I get it! Thanks so much, Leigh!



Celia Johnson by Posie Grenadine

Celia Johnson by Posie Grenadine

Celia Johnson

You might have noticed I'd disappeared from these parts for a wee while. Well, that's because I've been busy tackling blackwork... oh, and celebrating my twenty third birthday with a cocktail or two.

Celia Johnson just needs the final RSN seal of approval and then, fingers crossed, she'll be mounted on Thursday, ready to be assessed and then framed.

And I must say I'm rather chuffed with her! She's been a pleasure to stitch from start to finish, with only a few hair-raising moments.

Here is the screenshot I based my blackwork on:



 Here is the final result:


And here are all the stages in between (I got a bit snap happy as time went on!):




















Onwards and upwards to silk shading come Monday; I'll be stitching a Boletus satanas, or "Devil's mushroom"... alongside an innocent little oak leaf.

In black and white



One of my first embroideries was based on Brief Encounter. I believe it will always be one of my favourite films (to be watched with a box of tissues close to hand!) It crops up as a reference again and again in my writing as well, and so for my latest RSN piece I decided to embroider its star, Celia Johnson, in her role as Laura Jesson.



A favourite band from my adolescence, Patti Plinko and Her Boy, cemented my love of Brief Encounter in their song Brief Call (which sadly I now can't find anywhere on the internet). In the song, a woman with a cut-glass English accent implores to a telephone operator that she wants to talk to Celia Johnson (one of their later songs is entitled Tapestry Stitches; clearly Patti Plinko and I are destined to be!) The crackly, seductive-yet-sinister voice of Patti Plinko seared the character Celia Johnson into my brain; in my spoken word piece Kiss the Book, I later wrote that "You and I might be the last remaining sufferers of Celia Johnson Syndrome, forsaking feelings for public decency, drinking to loosen stiff upper lips, awakening to find starched white surgical ruffs buttoned back up beyond the collar."

The black and white, austerity Britain, "keep calm and carry on" vibe of the film (apt as it was made during the war) translates well to blackwork, the technique I'm currently learning at the Royal School of Needlework. 


I wouldn't have expected it as I'm pants at maths, but I've really taken to counted thread techniques; perhaps there's something slightly obsessive about my personality?! Making those tiny little geometric stitches in counts of two threads a time certainly is satisfying; I find the octagonal square pattern I'm using to shade Celia's face with particularly hypnotic.






Teeny tiny waffle pattern making up Celia's hair


Blackwork is very crisp, and perhaps the closest embroidery technique to hand drawing. My favourite pieces to stitch prior to starting at the RSN were black and white illustrations from early-twentieth century children's books, so I was particularly looking forward to starting this technique:







In fact, my initial design for blackwork more closely resembled these illustrations; it was based on a character from my stories and stitchings, Polly Kettle:


However, my tutors decided that this design would be too flat, as blackwork, as opposed to just black on white stitching, is all about shading and dimensionality, and the use of negative space. So we plumped for this screenshot of Celia instead (only severely cropped!):


I will be sharing blow-by-blow progress over on Instagram, so do head on over if you want to see my stitchy (and other!) goings-on.


"I am worn to a ravelling"


My favourite of Beatrix Potter's tales has always been The Tailor of Gloucester. As a small child I imagine the appeal was the cavorting, singing animals and the sumptuous snowy Christmas setting. Now that I'm grown, I am enthralled by the needlework and the tailoring itself, and the industrious little tailor mouse and his helpers above all.

Whilst I was in Scotland my best friend popped a little card with the tailor mouse printed on the front through the letterbox.


The mice must complete the coat and waistcoat for the Lord Mayor's wedding, for the tailor has no more twist; no more cherry coloured embroidery thread!


Last Christmas time I spent an entire day watching the BBC's Beatrix Potter adaptations and embroidering (what else), only leaving the house to fetch some red ribbon. It was bitterly cold and snowing outside, and I felt exactly like the Tailor of Gloucester!

I knew that I had to use the tailor's deliciously sewing-specific phrase, "I am worn to a ravelling" in an embroidery somewhere down the line, and with the Big Teeth project the chance has finally come.

As you may remember from my earlier post, the heroine of Big Teeth, conversely to many fairy tale protagonists, is afraid of being tied down by love. Therefore I wanted to express her frustration at being finally "caught" with the tailor's phrase (particularly since all the contents of the pockets relate, in some way or another, to textiles).

For that embroidery's "sister", I used an equally delicious terrible pun, "Girl Afrayed" (I just couldn't help myself; it marries two of my favourite things, needlework and a Smiths song!)

These two little doilies will fill the penultimate and final pockets of Big Teeth.





Protect The Wild Flowers

I came across this image on Tumblr (via the lifestyle blog The Thinking Tank) and immediately felt compelled to turn it into a sketch for blackwork. As I found it on Tumblr I've had difficulty locating it on the blog that originally posted it, and so I'll never know if there's any more information about such a captivating, whimsical image (with such an important message).



I may not have rendered the children's faces perfectly in stitch, but I am mostly pretty happy with the results (and with my choice of ivy-embroidered handkerchief!)

I think of this as a companion piece to my Melancholyflowers:




Two features on embroidery blogs in two days!

(Well, almost two days!)

Since coming back to the Flickr and Blogger folds, my blackwork commissions of treasured childrens' storybook illustrations have been getting rather a lot of love.

First they were featured over at the &Stitches blog on Sunday:

And today they were featured on Mr X Stitch's "Too Cute Tuesday" post by the wonderful blogger Olisa Corcoran (aka cocoaeyesthestitcher):


The response to these pieces has just reconfirmed for me that delicate blackwork is what I should be focusing on right now... I'm working up a little series, and will hopefully exhibit them in the summer. Here's the first of the series:



Nothing But Flowers

 



After weeks of stitching (and distractions), my Melancholyflowers are finally all stitched up! They're based on an illustration from the turn of the century childrens' book Land of Play - Verses, Rhymes, Stories, first published in 1911.

I've so enjoyed embroidering these delicate little flowers, although their intricacy did make it a frustrating process at times! I shall have them framed soon and look for somewhere to exhibit them along with the other embroideries in the blackwork series I'm working on. But for now, back to work on The Constellation Quilt.