Appliqué is a technique that many embroiderers will be familiar with, especially if quilting also features in your stitching repertoire, however the RSN Diploma Appliqué Module takes this technique further into some specific elements and focuses on dimension and edges.
The brief for the Appliqué module explains that the RSN is looking for the embroiderer to be able to smoothly apply fabrics over a variety of padding types e.g. carpet felt, string padding, pelmet vilene, wool felt etc and then deliver finished edges on each element of the design. The embroiderer is free to embellish their work with threads, beads and wires etc. but needs to be careful that they are delivering an Appliqué piece and not a stumpwork. The use of a wide variety of materials is encouraged.
With all of the above in mind I approached this Appliqué module with some trepidation as I had a limited time, along with a determination to enjoy the freedom to use a range of fabrics, fibres and techniques. For my design I wanted to still incorporate the signature Oak leaves and Acorns and so my version of a Green Man was born.
While many RSN students piece their background for this module, often using applique edges, I had taken a photo of a special tree during my visit to France and I wanted to incorporate this photo into my piece. The tree was growing in the military cemetery near Lille where my husbands Great Uncle was buried during WW1, and I imagined that I could see a face in the bark of the tree. I was able to find a business in the U.K. called PRINTFAB who printed my photo onto a fat quarter of good quality cotton fabric and this became the background to my appliqué. I love how this turned out and hope I can use the approach again in a future work!
Face in the tree. Background print.
Working out the layers and types of padding and where to use each was the next step. Carpet Felt padding was new to me and I found there were really good instructions in the RSN Applique book by Kate Cross. Building up the carpet felt, which I did on a seperate hoop, gave the nose and eyebrows good height. String padding the lips was a little more challenging, though in the end I was happy with how they shaped up. Layers of wool felt brought dimension into his face, and additional wadding elevated some of the leaves across his cheeks and forehead.
One of the key requirements of RSN Appliqué is that there must be a variety of edge finishes used. I was able to use some of the leftover background fabric with the tree trunk print to make turned edges over the nose, lips and eyebrows. The leaves gave me the space to do embroidered edges such as buttonhole and long and short (his beard). Some of the fabric leaves have couched and corded edges, while leather and vinyl leaves allowed me to have raw edges.
I found some wonderful large and slightly oval shaped beads during that same visit to France and, after wrapping the tops with gold twist, these became the large acorns which I sewed to the piece. Other small beads were added, along with stitched tufting and french knots, and all combined to give his face texture.
I felt that I could have continued to add a lot more embellishment to this work however time was against me as our boxes had to be packed so they could be shipped back to Australia, and the frame this piece was worked on was one of the things that had to go, so I had to get it off the frame and mounted. Also I had to keep reminding myself appliqué not stumpwork!
The RSN allows you to choose how you would like to present your Appliqué – either via traditional mounting over card or as a soft wall hanging – I chose traditional mounting. I did think later that this decision was shortsighted as this piece is 32cm on each side and took ages to mount via the RSN required method. I am however very happy with how the finished piece has come together, and I think it looks somewhat like my original design drawing .
End of the 2018 Embroidery Adventure
My appliqué piece was finished and submitted less than 24 hours before we flew out of the U.K. and this also brings my 2018 RSN Embroidery adventure to an end. Completing 6 RSN Certificate & Diploma pieces in 12 weeks has been an effort, and something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do, and it has also the most wonderful time ever.
Thanks must be given to my wonderful husband for his support, meals, washing, ironing, packing my lunch, carrying my bags and generally keeping me sane.
I do hope to get back to the Royal School of Needlework next year so keep your fingers crossed for me – I still have 4 more Diploma subjects to do!. In the intervening time I will continue to embroider and update you on progress via this blog.
Now holidaying in the USA!