Wednesday, 31 January 2007

TAST Cretan Stitch

Cretan stitch was a new one for me. I had seen it on SharonB’s blog ‘In a minute ago’ and used it only once before a short while before TAST began. Working my sampler, I found that I liked the stitch, as I thought I would. However, I found starting a real problem. Virtually every row I had to work out how to start and I really struggled to work out the stitching sequence for the circles.

So what did I do? I started simply with a row where the stitches were worked closely and then one with more widely spaced stitches. Looking at the sampler now, I think that I should have worked the first row completely closed and perhaps have spaced the second row even more to give greater contrast between the two rows.

I really liked the woven effect that I got with Herringbone and thought that I might get a similar effect with Cretan Stitch. Like before, I tried two methods. Working a complete row in one colour, then stitching complete rows of the other colours in turn produced the third row. For the fourth row, I threaded a needle with each of the four colours and stitched Closed Cretan Stitch using the colours in sequence. Worked in this stitch, I prefer the first method, not least because the finished row is textured with a ridge running down the centre. I have to say the second method was really time consuming and tedious (not a feeling a often associate with embroidery).

When I finally completed that row, I was ready for a change of pace. First, I worked the outline of the paisley. I thought that it looked to open for an outline, so I worked a second row in the spaces. I don’t really think that it works as an outline stitch, the shape seems undefined to me. To give it more substance, I filled the entire shape with rows of stacked Cretan Stitch. I enjoyed working the stitch in regular rows and like the pattern it created. Next, I played with working the stitch in circles. As I said earlier, I found these I bit complicated to work out, but I love the designs that were created.

Below the paisley and circles I have a row of Cretan Stitch wrapped with a narrow satin ribbon; a row of stitches in green with a second row stitched in the spaces, as I did to outline the paisley; a row of Knotted Cretan Stitch (I really like this but think that the knots would show to better effect in a heavier thread); and finally, a row of Cretan Stitch used to couch down three strands of tapestry wool.

If you have been following my blog for the short time I’ve been posting, you may have noticed that my stitching tends to be neat and rather regimented. I mostly work in straight lines with even spaces between my stitches. I don’t do random. It’s not that I don’t want to: I love the free and sometimes hectic appearance random stitching. Only today, SharonB has posted a picture of a beautiful fabric postcard, which is packed with randomly placed stitches and beads. I would really like to produce something like that, but I don’t seem able to let my hand run free. Even when I do try to stitch randomly, I’m thinking, “Where should I place this stitch so that it looks random?” Case in point! The small paisley design worked in green thread. After all those neat rows of counted stitches, I wanted to work the stitch in a random manner, but I simply could not let go and let the stitches come freely. I kept planning where my next ‘random’ stitch ought to go. Consequently, I am disappointed with the result; I feel it looks contrived.

Reading this back, it does not sound like I enjoyed this stitch, but oddly, I did. And I am pleased with the sampler. I am happy to have some elements that did not work out as I had hoped because I think that is part of the learning process. Next time I try a knotted stitch I will work it in a heavier thread and compare it with this sample. That way I hope to build a library that I can use for reference in the future.

Finally, the threads I used for this page where also new to me. They are DMC linen floss. Each skein contains 6 strands 100% linen. On the skein, I really liked the look of the linen. The colours and muted and have a very slight sheen. The thread has a slightly stiff feel to it that gives a nice crisp look to the stitch. I mostly worked with either two or three strands at a time. When I used too long a length (a bad habit I must get out of) the thread showed signs of wear and on one occasion broke. Mostly is stay tangle free, but the couple of times it did get into a knot, it was really difficult to untangle. Overall, I liked it and will be using it again.

Happy stitching

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

TAST Detached Chain Stitch

I had a lot of things to do this week so I decided to scale things down for Detached Chain Stitch. I also wanted a change of background, so I worked this week's sampler on commercial felt. I drew out a rectangle 5 by 3 and a half inches. I drew on my paisley shape and a circle. Last week, I had struggled slightly with the Broder Medicis threads that I used, the fibers caught and entwined with each other, creating a drag when forming the button hole stitches. However, I thought that it would look well with the felt, so I decided to stick with it for this weeks TAST.

When introducing Detached Chain, Sharon said that she had originally intended for the TAST to be variations of chain stitch, but had got so involved with Detached Chain that she had stuck with that one variation. After looking at my design for some time, I decided that I really wanted a continuous outline aroung the paisley, so I started with chain stitch. Inside this line, I did a second line, this time in twisted chain stitch. It was the first time that I had done this stitch and it took me 2 or 3 attempts to get going but once I had worked the stitch out, I enjoyed it. I think that the twists would show to better effect if I had used a heavier thread. For the circle in the paisley, I worked 2 rounds of radiating detached chain stitches. The mustard stitches point towards the center and have short 'tails' to hold down the loop. I then worked small loops with long tails pointing outwards in between those. I originally thought that I would seed the remaining space with oyster stitch (another new one for me) but seeing how delicate the circle 'flower' looked, I thought they might be too heavy so I worked plain detached chain stitches instead.

For as long as I can remember, my Dad has grown chrysanthemums. The red/pink threads reminded me of their colours. I thought it would be fun to try to stitch a chrysanthemum in the other circle. It looks rather better in the flesh than in the scan and I am quite please with it.

There is a lot more to try with this family of stitches, by they can wait until Sharon returns to chain stitch.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Phone Pouch - Finished

I finally got around to finishing the phone pouch. It got put to one side while I became totally absorbed in the first two stitches for TAST. I'm really keen to get going on the third (detatched chain stitch) but I decided I should finish this and do a couple of other things before I got totally absorbed in that one as well.

Anyway, I lined the pouch with the same fabric that I had used on the top corners (it is almost totally covered by the ribbon bow on the front) before stitching the side seams. I made a cord from a selection of toning DMC floss and wrapped that with a finer cord also made from DMC floss. I left about an inch hanging below the bottom when I stitched the cord to the side seams so that I could unravel the threads to make a tassel.

As usual, I made a few mistakes, like stitching beads all along the seams treatment so they were in the way when I came to sew it together. Also, I put wadding between the ground fabric and the CQ fabrics. I think it gives the embroidery a nice plump, padded look, but it has made this little pouch a bit bulky. Still, I have learnt a couple of things for future projects.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

TAST Button Hole Stitch

Oh what a TAST. I have always found button hole (or blanket stitch, as I know it) a difficult unco-operative stitch. The top bars tend to slide down the verticle bars and look untidy. I tried to put my prejudges of this stitch to one side and stitch it with an open mind. I think somewhere in the back of my mind my lingering doubts got in the way of my fully appreciating this TAST.

I used the same linen as for the herringbone, but change thread and used Broder Medicis. I began with a basic blanket stitch couched over a narrow ribbon. The ribbon severed well to hold the stitches in place, so far so good. I wanted to explore shaping the stitch. For the second row, I worked the stitches close together and gradually lengthened and shortened the verticle bars to create a zig zag. On the third row, I keep the verticle bars consistent but moved up and down diagonally, following the contours of the second row. Finally, in this set, I again lengthened and shortened the verticle bars, but this time I moved the top bars and kept the tips of the bars level.

At this stage I was finding the stitch a little tiresome and decided to change track. I drew the same paisley design that I had used on herringbone and outlined it in blanket stitch. I then worked a second row in the opposite direction. In the center circle I worked detached button hole. This is the first time that I have done this stitch and I rather enjoyed it. In the remaining space, I randomly placed little crosses, still worked in button hole stitch but rotating each stitch 90 degrees to the previous stitch (does this stitch have a name?).

Although I enjoyed working the paisley more than the first 4 rows, I still needed a little inspiration to continue with this stitch. On Sharon's stitch dictionary I found several variations that I was not familiar with. For some random reason, I started working from the bottom up for here on. So from the bottom, I started with barb stitch. This is quite simply 2 rows of blanket stitch worked back to back and then the middle bars are wrapped. I wrapped them with the narrow satin ribbon that I used at the top of the sampler.

The second row is closed button hole. At some point, I realised that my first attempt at this stitch was wrong, so this is in fact the last row I work after I removed my first attempt. By this time I understood how I should work the stitch and found it fairly simple to do, the first time it was a chore. Row 3 (from the bottom) is up and down button hole and this was my favourite variation on the stitch. Row 4 is crossed button hole, worked in the same way as closed button hole but with crossed stitches. I decided to tie these stitches just to add a little variety.

Row 5 is bonnet stitch. I'm not sure if I have worked this correctly. I didn't fully understand the instructions. I think the fault lies with me, not with the instructions. Right or wrong, I quite like the results and after a few false starts, enjoyed the rythem of stitching it. The next row was an attempt to emulate the woven effect that I had worked in herringbone (I don't think this stitch lends itself to weaving). All four rows are in fact Berwick stitch becuase I have wrapped the thread around the needle. I prefer this to blanket stitch because it stays in place but it is slower to work. The final row is called Rosette of Thorns. In fact it is 2 rows of thorns worked back to back.

To fill the remaining space, I drew two circles, one inside the other and worked blanket stitch in a round. Finally, I added a couple of the beads I bought in Amsterdam. I don't think the scan shows how beautiful these beads are. The bead at the tip of the paisley design is a faceted green glass bead with a pink core. I don't know what the other bead style is called, it is a flat glass bead with pale opaque pink in the centre and a darker transparent pink around the edges.

Whew, a mamoth TAST and a mamoth blog.

Happy stitching

Friday, 12 January 2007

Golden Wedding Anniversary Project

Yesterday I rambled on about Japanese Embroidery. I wanted to tell you about that before rambling on about this years BIG project. On June 1st 2007, my parents will have been married for 50 years. In my book that is quite something and I would like to give them a special gift to mark the occasion. I have been thinking about this for sometime (you will come to realise that I spend rather more time thinking than doing, but I'm working on that). When I showed them my first Japanese embroidery, my Dad was impressed, and that doesn't happen often. That was when I decided to do an embroidery for them. After a lot more thought, I decided on a design called Flutterbies. I have 3 brothers, so the six butterflies in the design will represent my parents, my brothers and me. All I have to do now is decide on a colour scheme. Now, I am not very good with colour, or at least I don't believe that I am, so prevaricate endlessly when choosing a colour scheme.

After much deliberation, I have settled on two possible designs. The first is based on 'mother' and 'father' bird in this embroidery of herons. The mother is embroidered with white, silver and pink, whilst the father has black, white and gold plumage. My idea was to embroider my 'mother' and 'father' butterflies in these colours and for the four 'children' butterflies to each have one element from each parent in there own colour scheme. Below is a sketch of this design, the colours are only representative, the scan below of DMC threads is closer to the actual colours that I envisage.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

My second idea was to try to use a more 'Japanese' colour scheme. I found an article about how kimono colours changed from month to month. This scheme is based on the colours associated with the months in which our birthdays fall. To me, this is a far more challenging scheme. The colours are not ones that I would normally put together or even use in the first place. Again, the sketch is not a good colour match and is only really a guide for where each colour will be placed. The DMC threads are below the sketch.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

I will have to make my choice soon; their anniversary is in June and I am definitely not a fast worker.

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Japanese Embroidery

A few years ago I joined a local branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild. We meet on the first Wednesday of the month and most months we have a guest speaker. In June 2004, Margaret Lewis gave a talk and demonstration on Japanese embroidery and bought along examples of her work. I have always loved the look and feel of silk and was totally captivated by these beautiful silk embroideries. I discovered that Margaret taught a 5-day class in Bournemouth twice a year, September and February. When I went home and enthused to my partner about the evening and he encouraged me to enrol for the class. We already had a family holiday booked for September so I enrolled for the February class. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the 5 days in Bournemouth. Firstly, the other ladies on the course are a joy to be with. Secondly, having so much time to spend stitching without interruption, or feeling slightly guilty about the jobs I could be doing, is wonderful. I learned so many new skills in that week from the tutors and from the other students who freely shared their knowledge and experience.

Margaret is a Kurenai-Kai Graduate Authorised Tutor. They teach traditional Japanese Embroidery over an initial ten Phases. In Phase I, I learned basic stitches such as laying foundations; working veins, stamen and branches; and some gold and silver thread work. I made good progress during that week but had plenty still to do on my Phase I design when I returned home. Because I have to set up before I start and clear it away when I have finished (the frame takes up too much space to leave out all time and I cover the work to keep it free from dust and dirt), I need to set aside time to work on this embroidery. I also like to be alone and quiet so that I can concentrate on what I am doing. This is not often possible, so it took me a year to complete the design. I didn’t think that I was going to finish it before the next class and, in fact, only finished it the day before the class began.

In February 2006 I returned to Bournemouth to begin Phase II and learned some special effects; braided cords; and padding. I enjoyed this class every bit as much as the first. I am a very slow worker so I had a lot more work to do after the course and throughout the year I have slowly progressed whenever I could find some time. I have done most of the work on this design and hope to finish it soon as I do not want to be doing it at the last minute, like last year.

The Kurenai-Kai Japanese Embroidery Centre have a lot more information about learning Japanese Embroidery on their web site or, you can see some examples of the beautiful embroidereries stitched at the Kurenai-kai Centre in Japan on their art gallery.

Their UK branch also have a web site here.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

TAST Herringbone 3

At the risk of being boring, I am still not entirely finished with herringbone. Today I started to set up my bloglines. At the same time I was looking to see what others had done with herringbone. I must say that I am amazed at the variety and creativity generated by one stitch (and I have only done names A-F so far). Barbara Cheeseman of embroidery overlaps mentioned an article in the Stitch magazine and this evening I dug out my copy and took another look at the article. This prompted me to add a circle of herringbone chain stitch to the circle that I created last night and to add another circle embroidered in herringbone variation stitch. My final stab at herringbone on this sample was simply to couch a ribbon with a double row in contrasting colours. Finally, I added a couple of beads that I bought in Amsterdam recently.

I was pleased when Sharon chose herringbone for the first stitch on her Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge . This is a stitch that I felt comfortable with, it was a nice way to ease into this challenge, I thought. So I started in my comfort zone: straight lines, counted and controlled stitches. My first few rows were neat, crisp and SAFE. No wonder I enjoyed working these samples. Then I thought I would attempt to move outside my comfort zone and add some curves. To my surprise, I enjoyed working the circles and the paisley motif even more than the straight lines. I found herringbone to be very flexible and manipulative. It flowed easily into the shapes I wanted to create and behaved impeccably. I thought that I knew this stitch, but through exploring it and looking at how others interpretated the stitch, I have learnt more about it. I guess that is the point of this challenge: expanding on our existing knowledge. Thanks, Sharon, for coming up with this challange and all the hard work that you have put into it.

Happy Stitching

TAST Herringbone: curves

I wasn't quite finished with Herringbone. I wanted to do some stitching on curves. I drew a paisley shape and outlined it with a curved herringbone, varying the size as I went. I then stitched a second row staggered to the first. I then drew two circles. The one in the paisley I filled with stitches of varying size. The other circle I stitched in a circular motion, taking the stitch wider at the perimeter.

I then filled the remaining space in the paisley with a stacked herringbone.

Before I stitched the paisley and circle I added an other row of herringbone. This time I took the stitch wider at the back so that the front "crosses" overlapped more and created a criss-cross effect.

Monday, 8 January 2007

TAST Herringbone

Yesterday, I did a lot of stitching, or rather, I spent a lot of time stitching. As I am so slow, a long time spent doing something does not necessarily result in getting a lot done. In the morning I made a cord for the phone pouch I am making. I still have to make the finished CQ into a bag. In the afternoon, while J watched Man U play football, I worked on my Japanese Embroidery (more on that soon). As I needed to do quiet a bit of marking out and preparation, I didn’t get very much stitching done. Finally, in the evening I spent a little time on TAST. I had worked a couple of rows of herringbone in DMC perle cotton 8 on linen on Thursday. I wanted to see how the stitch would look wider or taller and narrower. I used the same threads but this time stitches I worked a shorter stitch in DMC perle cotton 12 over the wider stitches.

Next I wanted to experiment with layering the stitches. I used four different colours and worked them one at a time, stepping each progressive layer one thread to the right of the previous layers. For the next row I used the same threads but alternated between the colours making one stitch at a time. The second method was very time consuming, but to me the result is more pleasing than the first method. I do, however, like the texture of the first method and think this may be worth exploring on canvas with a heavier thread.

Finally, I took some narrow satin ribbon and wrapped the first two rows of plain herringbone. The first row, I wrapped following the path of the foundation stitches. On the second row I wrapped each strand in turn.

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Take a Stitch Tuesday - False Start

My Partner plays bar billiards for the local team on Tuesday evening and I am usually at home alone. When SharonB announced that she would be starting a new challenge called Take a Stitch Tuesday, I immediately thought that I would join in - what better way to spend the evening. I have been really looking forward to the start. When J came home from work yesterday, he said that he didn't have a match this week. Later, he decided to go to the pub for a practice, so I would still get an hour or so to stitch in peace. J left and I got out my fabrics and threads. Just as I started to cut some linen the house was filled with youths. Two sons, two girlfriends and two mates. Never mind, they would be in another room, I could still sew. One girlfriend came and joined me and asked what I was doing. I showed her the TAST on Sharon's blog and she asked me to show her how to do herring bone stitch.

It may not have been what I had planned, but I enjoyed teaching L her first embroidery stitch. Four rows of herring bone stitch later L was grinning from ear to ear to see her handy work.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Phone Pouch Update 2

I've been to Amsterdam for a few days to stay with my partner's sister. We had a lovely time, as we always do, but I wasn't able to do any stitching for the whole of the Christmas period until this evening. Now I've embroidered for about 3 hours and feel much better. I finished the final seam but with a different thread to the one I had originally planned to use. Then I added beads to most of the seam treatments. In her blog at Kitty and Me Designs, Pam Kellogg said that adding the beads is her favourite part because they "add light,depth and dimension". I think I would agree with that. I have added a butterfly to one corner, a bow to an other and embroidered a "K" for the recipient in the top left corner. I think I have done enough embroidery on this pouch now and hopefully will make it up tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my last day off work for the Christmas break and I plan to spend the entire day working on a piece that I have been working on since February of last year. I will not finish it tomorrow but hope to get a fair amount done as I want to finish it soon. Tomorrow is also the start of SharonB's Take A Stitch Tuesday and I plan to do some stitching for that in the evening.

Happy Stitching