Crazy Patchwork classes have always been popular at Heart Space Studios and several people asked me to teach them more hand embroidery stitches, so I started a course called Crazy Patchwork Sampler. The course is built around the sampler that I made for my book, Crazy Patchwork, published in 1998 by Collins and Brown – it seems what goes around comes around……
For the FIRST WORKSHOP I started off with the absolute basics, first we chose the colour scheme – I supplied various ribbons and fabrics for people to choose a small group of their favourite colours: this takes longer than anyone imagines it can and causes a lot of negative ideas to flow as people are usually very nervous about using colour, but I have learnt that this choosing is really important as eventually by using the same set of colours in various patterns and proportions the finished piece can be made harmonious.
Most people, to their own surprise, choose colours similar to what they are wearing. The next choice to be made is the threads – I ask them to choose similar colours to the fabrics but to stitch in complementary coloured threads – so that the stitching will show up.
The first sampled stitches are the straight ones – running, back and all the variations, easy does it….but it also includes writing a name…very simple but very effective for the first workshop. There are various methods of writing onto fabric so that it can be embroidered and we start with the simplest by using a water-soluble pen or the old-fashioned transfer paper still used by dressmakers.
The SECOND WORKSHOPsession was cross stitch, counted and herringbone – which is the main stitch I use for joining the patches together. The group was still concerned about colours, but I assured everyone that we had a long way to go and plenty of opportunity to make the whole sampler work in harmony – I was delighted that they had all done ‘homework’ and had finished the first workshop’s ‘patch’ and found more variations to add to the straight stitches.
Counted cross stitch is another way of embroidering letters and numerals……
There is a whole world of cross stitch motifs and I like using the traditional ones – to illustrate the technique of charting for cross stitch I showed them some old work of mine that was designed from vintage needlework manuals. I still work as a freelance designer for a canvas embroidery company, Ehrman Tapestry, where I sometimes use similar charting for some of my designs, even though the stitch for tapestry is tent or half crass stitch. So I have lots of reference material and the group spent an hour of the 3 hour session looking at all my books and notes before they began charting their own designs.
The task for this second session was to chart a name and date as well as a small multi-coloured motif and to stitch it onto the counted thread fabrics.
choosing the colours from a limited range of counted thread fabrics involves creative use of colour
it is interesting how the maker’s character soon emerges from their choice of colour and letter forms, above Helen’s looks strong and directional while Sophie has chosen elegant letter forms and motifs ; the colour combinations are similar but the proportions are very different
By the THIRD WORKSHOP the patchworks are starting to look very rich and there is less uncertainty about colour choices, everyone seems to be enthralled by this process and are bringing in finished pieces that they have developed at home alone….everyone comments on how good it is to just stop for a time and concentrate on their stitching.
The third week is supposed to be looped stitches – chains and lazy daisies and feather, but we have to spend some time catching up on herringbone as the counted cross stitch took up most of the last class at the studio.
The patches are now starting to harmonise together by careful use of colour; everyone really enjoys the frivolity of stitching with multi-coloured threads to make up the herringbone variations
By the LAST WORKSHOP we have got a small range of patches ready to be worked into a whole square.
The piecing together of the patches for the last class was easier because of the colour co-ordination of the embroideries, but the strict oblong patches made for geometric patterns for the final piece. Maybe for the next session of this class I will give each person a triangle as well as oblongs and squares of fabrics to apply the embroidered ribbons on.
I just didn’t have the heart to ask them to cut up their embroideries to look like a more authentic crazy, even so each person had completely different patchworks –
This group of students want to learn more stitches and techniques so I am running an advanced course for them – and other more experienced embroiderers can drop in for single sessions. Considering that this group had only 5 classes for 3 hours each they have really advanced their practice in many ways and not just by learning how to stitch. I think that they have caught my bug – the embroidery bug – and are now developing their own libraries and stashes of materials ready to try out new techniques and new ways of expressing themselves.