Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wool Applique Chicks with Emerging Personalities

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

When I saw an exhibition of Sue Spargo's embroidered, wool applique quilts at the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum a half a year ago, I was beyond thrilled with her colors, folky designs, and flawless technique. Here are some photos.


Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks
Imagine my delight when a space became available in Sue's workshop during the La Conner Quilt Festival on Oct. 4th! We would make a sampler using one of three of Sue's motifs: leaves, circles, or chicks. You guessed it... chicks are my thing! To prepare for the class, we were instructed to cut out our chicks (36 of them!) and applique them to the background felted wool using matching wool thread.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

Not having any wool thread, I stitched my little chicks using 60 weight cotton applique thread. It has a bit of a shine, which shows on the wool if you look closely. The wool thread is rather expensive, even if you just buy bobbins, but I'll probably invest in a set of bobbins if I keep doing this type of work.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

I also made another deviation from the instructions, deciding that 16 chicks would be enough to practice the stitches and give me an idea if this is something I enjoy doing. Below is the layout for my sampler, ready for embroidered embellishments during the workshop.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks, layout

Of course we didn't get much done, although Sue was great at getting around to each of us, giving individually tailored instructions. Although I have learned various embroidery stitches in the past, there were quite a few that were new to me, my favorites being: rosette chain stitch, palestrina knot stitch, bullion loops, and buttonhole scallops.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

The other fabulous thing about her class is that she brought LOTS of examples of her work, and allowed us to photograph them, which gave me a library of possibilities for using the different stitches. So far, I haven't needed her examples for inspiration, but I'm sure I'll run out of ideas and be grateful for the photos I took.


Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chick, in process
A little over a month has passed since the class, and I've finished half of my chicks!

It's really fun to see the personality of each chick emerge as the stitches and colors are added. I haven't named them yet, but I do recognize definite character traits in each of them. Most are girl chicks, ranging from shy and introverted types, to flamboyant, to high class. A couple are boys, filled with testosterone, chasing the girls.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

Which two of my first 8 chicks do YOU think are the boys?

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chick, in process

In case you're interested in my process... I stitch eyes, beaks, or feet when I'm at a loss about what to do next, giving myself time to get inspired. I don't always finish one chick before moving on to the next. If I'm stuck, I just work on another chick for a while, one that calls to me (usually because of color). The single chicks pictured in this post need a lot more embellishments.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chick, in process

After I finish the chicks, the next step is deciding how to finish the piece. I'll probably quilt it, making it into a small wall hanging. But I'm not sure if I'll hand or machine quilt. Look for a related post on threads and embellishing materials soon.

Beads? Oh yes, if you click on pictures of the finished chicks they will enlarge to full size, and you'll be able to see the beads as well as the detail of the stitches.

17 comments:

  1. I bought her green book of stitches a while ago (I think she has more than one book) and she has the best selection of stitches! I must dig it out and have a go at some stuf. I love your birdies!

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    1. Yes, the green book, "Creative Stitching," is the one I am using, and yes, she has more than one. Between the photos in the book and her drawings, I've managed to learn and use most of the stitches. Thanks!

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  2. Nancy Anders9:45 PM

    I'm doing the flowers, but I'm not nearly as far along as you are on your chicks which, btw, are adorable. They are definitely strutting their stuff!
    It's fun learning new stitches, and new ways of combining familiar stitches.

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  3. If you ever post photographs of your flowers, Nancy, will you please let me know... I'd love to see them. I agree... it really is fun... time just whizzes by when I'm stitching the chicks!

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  4. Robin, these are absolutely wonderful! They feel like the glorious celebration of color, texture, and exquisite stitching you put into Rosie. I love Sue Spargo's work and book too; it's exciting to see your beautiful response to them. If you aren't already familiar with Sally Mavor's stitched work, be sure to check that out too--especially her Rabbitat video. Now I'm going back to admire your chicks some more! I just love them.

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    1. High praise coming from you, Lisa... thanks! I'm off to check Sally Mavor's work next, starting with the Rabbitat video.

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  5. Your chicks are gorgeous. Very envious of your opportunity to do this workshop - this type of stitching really appeals to me. Little bits so you can change your mind frequently and never get bored!

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    1. Thanks! Yes, that's what I like so much about it... I never get bored because it's always a new color and a new stitch. Why don't you get her book and give it a try? I've learned most of the stitches from her book, and the directions/drawings are great.

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    2. Just put in on my Amazon wish list!

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  6. Your Chicks are great! I took her class in mid October in Sisters OR and am working away on my chicks too.

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  7. I love them all, Robin! :-)
    Thank you for the great commentary!
    Take care, Ildiko

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  8. I just love your chicks! I now have a couple of her books on my Christmas list. I used to love to do embroidery when I was growing up. I can't wait to pick it up again.

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  9. Anonymous7:21 AM

    These are wonderful, Robin. I wish you a Happy New Year 2015 full of beads and embroidery ! (Hélène)

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  10. Love these little chicks!

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  11. Robin! These are beautiful. I got to do a one day workshop with Sue Spargo on October 6th. I also cut my birds down (13) and put them in a "birdhouse." Still working . . . Today I learned the buttonhole scallop. Thanks for the inspiration to keep me going:)

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