It’s a quiet little corner. Just steps away from the bustling high street in Durham, UK is a place called Fowler’s Yard. Here you will find Tracy Franklin’s workshop. It’s an historical group of buildings overlooking the River Wear in the center of Durham that have been refurbished into unique, creative work spaces for professional artists, craftspeople and creative businesses.
In two hours of gentle, peaceful stitching, these hands taught me so much. I went to work with Tracy Franklin to learn silk shading and get help with goldwork techniques. When I’m using the gorgeous silk from Pearsall’s, I always want it to look its best in my work and I haven’t been happy thus far. Now I think I will be happier with the results, thanks to Tracy’s careful, clear teaching.
We began with the long petals on the top of the golden/orange flower on the right of the design. Tracy explained that we would begin with the middle petal as it was ‘behind’ the others in the design. When working a design, she explained, it’s important to work from the back forward – those parts that are behind the others in a design must be worked first. I certainly hadn’t considered that before!
I wanted to do silk shading rather than long and short stitch but hadn’t attempted it before. We began by outlining the edges of each petal with split stitch. Working from the outside in, Tracy showed me how to begin – using the same technique as long and short for the first row.
Working from the outer edge inwards, she worked half of the stitches and I worked the other half. She called the stitches “longer and shorter” stressing that regimented, even stitches of exactly the same two lengths often leave indentations or lines in what we want to be very smooth stitching. We continued sharing rows of stitching until one petal was finished. We then moved on to the petal to the right where she taught me techniques to shade the petal to help it stand out in front of the first. This is artistry – far beyond what I’ve been doing. She is able to see the piece as a whole, plan ahead and knows what needs to be done at what time in the process to bring life into the piece.
We then took a break from silk shading and she showed me how to use check bullion and passing thread.
She had a brilliant ‘tool’ for catching and holding the tiny bits of cut check bullion – the lid from a plastic sour cream or large yogurt container lined with a piece of velvet. The lid makes a perfect tray and the velvet keeps the little bits of gold check in one place as we cut it into pieces.
Tracy showed me how to make a lasso to plunge the passing thread through to the back and exactly how to do it so the thread pops through effortlessly. She makes it all look so easy!
The two hours passed far too quickly. I couldn’t believe it was finished when my husband came through the door to pick me up. It will be weeks before it all soaks in…
As we were preparing to leave, Tracy shared her new book on crewel work with us. It is a gorgeous, inspirational book – completely different from anything I’ve seen. In her studio are mounted all the pieces she did for the book and they are fabulous! I will be reviewing the book as soon as I get home, so keep an eye out for it.