Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mining a golden seam

Last year's work on the Banner meant that I couldn't do some other projects (and a commission) that I would otherwise have done.  One of these was for the Embroiderers' Guild North East Region's exhibition, 'Mining a golden seam'.

This exhibition featured contemporary goldwork (in its widest sense) embroidery and textiles inspired by the North East's mining industry heritage and geological landscape.  I'd really wanted to be able to take time out from working on the Banner to make something for this, but unfortunately, though I did get as far as drawing up a design, time was too tight to go any further.

It's too late for the exhibition now, but I still want to make the piece I would have made for it, so here goes!

Thinking about coal, what fascinated me about it was the fact that it's formed from great forests, tens of millions of years ago, and I wanted to do something that reflected that.  After some thought and sketching, I drew a design of large leaves, that might have appeared in a primeval forest:

If you can read the word in pencil underneath, you'll see that I've called it Carbonifera, after the Carboniferous Period, when the coal beds were laid down.

This will be in gold, as per the original brief for exhibition entries, with two colours: a dark grey for coal and a light grey for ash.

First things first, though - I need to get it set up, ready to stitch.  I made a transfer, and ironed it onto some linen that had been dyed yellow:

As it didn't matter too much which way round the leaves went, I didn't reverse the design before making the transfer, so it's now the opposite way round to the drawing:

I then stretched it onto a frame, ready to start sewing:

To help keep me right with the colours, I've filled in the leaves with coloured pencil, in more or less the final colours I'll be using. Don't worry, it'll be covered up!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Dedication of St Cuthbert's Banner

After all the time and effort, yesterday was finally the day when the Banner was formally presented to Durham Cathedral, and dedicated to St Cuthbert.

There was a lot arranged for the day.  There's an annual pilgrimage from Chester-le-Street to Durham, following the route taken by the monks who carried St Cuthbert's coffin, 1,200 years ago.  I must admit I didn't go on that, but met the pilgrims in Durham's market square, with my family and friends.

There were a lot of people there, and most of them were there to see the Banner (including my mum, dad and brother-in-law, on the bottom right).

I abandoned my nearest and dearest, and went to the Town Hall, where the Banner was being kept temporarily.  It was already on its pole, ready to go:

The local press were there too, and I gave my first ever TV interview, for the BBC.

It was brought out into the square, to a spontaneous round of applause, then Chris Kilkenny, the Northumbrian Association's historian, gave a short and very entertaining speech on its history:

With a bit of assistance, Mr Cuthbert, the project's sponsor, picked it up:

With it securely in its harness, and accompanied by pipe and drum, Mr Cuthbert lead the pilgrims and everyone else, about 200 people in all, through the streets of Durham:

We soon arrived at the Cathedral itself:

And the Banner was met at the door by the Dean:

Joined by the Bishop of Jarrow, there were some speeches and prayers to the assembled pilgrims:

It was then taken into the Cathedral, for a short service.

Photography is not allowed inside, without special permission, but I have to admit to sneaking a picture of the Banner, arranged on a stand inside St Cuthbert's shrine, next to his tomb (it's a bit blurred as light levels were pretty low):

I don't have any photos at all of this, but there was a beautiful dedication service, lead by the Dean and the Bishop, at Evensong.  There were readings and prayers, the Cathedral's marvellous choir sang, and the Banner was formally led in procession for the first time, with the entire congregation following.

It was all just wonderful, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world - I feel very lucky and very proud to have been part of something so special.

It's had quite a lot of coverage in the local press, so if you'd like to read more, here are a few links:

BBC News: St Cuthbert's Durham Cathedral funded by namesake businessman (with video, including a short interview with me)

Northern Echo: New banner celebrates the life of St Cuthbert

The Journal: St Cuthbert’s banner returns home to Durham Cathedral

Sunderland Echo: St Cuthbert’s banner paraded through Durham

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Nautilus I

As promised, here are some better photos of the shell piece, Nautilus I.

Showing the navy silk interior:

And from the side:

Today is a big day - later on, St Cuthbert's Banner will be dedicated at Durham Cathedral.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Assembling the shell

With all nine sections of the shell ready, it was time to stitch them together to make the final piece.

If I'd got my maths right, the thin end of one section should fit into the wide end of the section before it.  Starting with the smallest ones first, I used a curved needle to stitch the first two pieces together:

With each one, I stitched round twice, to make sure it was secure.

Then the third one:

They're fitting together ok so far!

Two-thirds of the way there, with six sections stitched together:

With the seventh one, as well as stitching it to the previous section as before, I also stitched it to the first section, which it overlapped.  This is to keep the spiral form from unravelling:

I did the same with the last couple of sections, to give the completed piece:


I'll take some better photos of it, so you can see it a bit clearer

Sunday, 11 March 2012

3D shell sections

So far, the sections that will comprise the shell are flat, and don't look shell-like at all.  Each one needs to be curved round, into a 3D shape.

As a reminder, here's a single, flat, section:

As it was stiffened with a heavy Vilene it will curve quite nicely without bending.  I formed it into a curve using my fingers and a wooden tool I found in a drawer - I have no idea what it's meant for, but it's a nice thing to use!

I tried to take my time over this to make sure that the final shape was even.

In the picture of the unbent section above, you might notice that there are two flat spots on its otherwise curved edges.  I brought these round to meet each other:

And ladder stitched the edges together with a curved needle:

This gave the finished section:

With all nine of them done, they're ready to be assembled into the final piece:

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lining the shell sections

Firstly, a quick update on the extension, by way of an excuse on why I haven't done much since my last post.  The extension is coming along very well indeed, and is almost finished, with just a few relatively minor bits and pieces to finish off for the building work.  There'll then be a lot of cleaning to do, then the decoration and prettying it up - the nice bits.  And yes I know it's just a utility room and a shower room but they can still be nice.

Anyway, back to the sewing.  The shell sections are lined in navy silk satin.  To do this, for each one I cut out a piece of felt to size, and a piece of the satin slightly larger:

I know it looks black there, but that's just the photo.

I folded the margin over the felt and tacked all round the edge, starting and finishing the tacking stitches on the right side. From the back:

And from the front:

Here are all nine backing pieces done:

Using a curved needle, I then ladder sitched each piece to the back of its corresponding beaded section:

Once that was done, I could take out the tacking stitches, leaving the finished, lined section:

Here are all of them together:

This is going to be a 3D piece, and the sections are flat, so I need to get them into shape!