Gucci chicken



Were there an award for the nicest person in the world, I think my friend Alison would be a very strong contender.  She noticed the above Gucci chicken in Florence and kindly sent me a photo to go with my own Fabergé attempt.  Of course, this could just mean a lot more work: a series of chickens in the style of – Laura Ashley, Cath Kidston, Gudrun Sjødën and so on.



Maria, Hen Empress of all the Russias


If you have been following my blog for a bit, you will know that every New Year’s Day I make a doll which either says something about the past year, or about the one coming up.  My rule is that it has to be completed from scratch in one day.  This year I knew that I wanted to do some work on Easter eggs, and Fabergé Easter eggs in particular, and so I decided to start work on that by making a Fabergé hen.  After all, you do need chickens to make eggs, the old – which came first, the chicken or the egg conundrum notwithstanding.

I started off by adapting a pattern from one of the Tilda craft books:


I was rather pleased about this as these books are a regular impulse buy and I never actually use them.  The pattern had to be adapted as the chicken had bloomers on:


I don’t really think that a Fabergé chicken would show her underwear, so I had to cut those out immediately.  I decided to make mine in felt for some reason which now escapes me, so I made the wings and stitched them on:


I used a ready made motif from Aarti J and sequins from a bumper pack bought at Paperchase.  Paperchase and Tiger are a really good source of cheap sequins, but they do come in variety packs so you can’t be choosy.  Then I started to encrust the body with beads.  This is where the plan went awry.  It takes a while to encrust a felt chicken with jewels:


So I broke my one day rule.  This seemed a reasonable sacrifice given what I wanted to achieve.  You can see that I used another Aarti J motif for the eyes.

The second snag came when I got round to the crown.  Because I have spent over thirty years in the educational company of a medieval historian I know that because she is an empress she needs an imperial crown, which is a closed crown.  A crown would be easy to make:


A nice strip of gold fabric with some points joined into a ring.  But an imperial crown needs a bit more thought:


Much fancier.  In the end, despite a lot of internet searching which resulted in instructions for making tiaras for Barbie on YouTube, I resorted to that old favourite: the pipe cleaner.  I pushed it through some gold tube knitting yarn that I bought at a knockdown price in Homescene, and cobbled it together with some very plastic-y bead braid and a button which had lost its shank which was lurking in my collection.  I have no idea where this bead came from, no recollection of buying it nor of my mother’s giving it to me:


The beak is two separate quarters of giant sequins from a garland I bought in Habitat’s closing down sale stuck onto the felt underneath and the wattle is from the same garland but sewn on.  I am adding these provenance details because people often ask where I get my beads.  The large pearl beads come from a five pound bargain bag from Hobbycraft.

The whole crown affair is rather wobbly and what my native dialect would describe as makkled together, but it represents the outer reaches of my chicken jewellery-making skills.

I am quite happy with the finished article:


Of course, Fabergé would have hated it.  It is cobbled together and it is too irregular for him.  He loved very fine craft skills and a neo-classical style, so this would have appalled him in its cheap materials and cobbled together making.  On the other hand, he loved novelties and small animal knick-knacks, so he might have given a half-smile.

Finally, she is called Maria because this was the name of the first Romanov empress for whom Fabergé made an Easter egg.

More on the Fabergé egg project later.

What I did at the weekend



You may be familiar with the phenomenon of saying yes to something which seems in the very distant future only to find it coming up very quickly indeed.  Well, flicking through my diary last week to see what was coming up, I stumbled upon an engagement to address the Bristol Quilters at the AGM.  Which is fine, except they have heard most of my ramblings and I never want to look like a complete wassack in front of them as they are my home crowd.

So, I thought I would develop an idea which has been brewing for some time about friendship quilts and album quilts and giftgiving in particular.  I thought I would turn to the quilts that my sewing group, St Andrews Quilters have been making for each other.  This would form the foundation of the talk, which is great except the first one we made has gone missing.  The theme was hens and chickens so I thought I would put in some other quilted chicken stuff, which would mean making some.  I made a start at the weekend and here is a preview of one piece:


Which on reflection bears a striking resemblance to this one which I think Mary made at the workshop:


Mine has some hand embroidery in Madeira Lana thread which is wool and nylon and gives a nice distinctive mark.  The second piece is done with heavy furnishing fabric as the background:


I thought the sky was a bit louring, but I love using up these samples of very expensive furnishing fabrics rather than throwing them into landfill.

I think I might have been heavily influenced by the quilting history books I have been reading lately, because even though I wanted this to be a sort of Hans Christian Andersen fairytale chicken girl, I seem to have channelled some very hard-working prairie pioneer girl:


Her skirt is a piece I fished out of the bin at the Janet Clare workshop.  No piece too small for my grasp.  I am interested, though, in her face.  I loved the part of the workshop where Janet advised us to start drawing faces and see who turned up.  She doesn’t have a little sweet face, and cutting her blouse freehand in reverse (because it was on bondaweb and needs to be cut backwards) gave her this folky feel.  The hair in her eyes also contributes to the look of someone too busy on the windy prairie to be fixing up her bangs.  Plus those hands look like they might have red knuckles from the lye soap.

I intend to make a couple more panels and then to mount them on a larger piece of fabric, possibly stretched over a block canvas.  Incidentally, I quilted/embroidered these while watching a tribute to Bruce Springsteen which only contributed to the feeling of Americana.