Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Silk Wrapped Purl

The second needlework nibble kit introduced a new thread made by Bill Barns of Golden Threads. Again it is actually an old thread that was commonly used in 17th century embroidery but then went out of production. Silk Wrapped Purl is copper wire wrapped with Au Ver a Soie silk that is coiled into a purl. They can be couched in place with matching silk threads, such as Au Ver a Soie 100/3 or Soie Paris or treated in the same way as other metal purl threads.

There are two kits available; each covers a different technique for attaching the Silk Purl. In the design I have, lengths of Silk Purl are couched in place with matching silk with a single strand Soie Paris in a matching colour. So far I have outlined each section of the design. They will be filled in using the same technique. At first I found it a little bit fiddly working with this springy thread but I soon got the hang of it. It would have been easier with the work on a stand but I had mounted the linen in a small spring hoop for ease and was holding that in my hand.

© Thistle Threads/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Needlework Nibble, Gobelin Stitch

The background of the strawberry motif is worked in gobelin stitch using Gilt Tambour Special. Both the stitch and thread were new to me. Tricia of Thistle Threads worked with Benton and Johnson to develop the thread for one of her teaching projects. It is subtle with little overtwist that makes it suitable for stitching the type of backgrounds commonly used in the 17th century.

There are several versions of gobelin stitch, this variation is essentially a half cross stitch worked over 2 threads. As with the queen stitch, I found working on this scale fiddly.

© Thistle Threads/Carol-Anne Conway

Most difficult for me was getting the needle into the same hole as a previously worked stitch. I think this was partly down to the needle. As Tricia suggested, I used a hand made Japanese embroidery needle. I think this is the most suitable needle for the GTS. I also tried with a tapestry needle; it was very difficult to thread the GTS through the oval eye if I used an appropriately sized needle and it was hard on the thread. However, Japanese needles have very sharp points that pierce the linen threads very easily; the rounded tip of a tapestry needle would be better suited to this type of stitch on linen. I considered sanding my needle to dull the point but they are very expensive and I couldn’t bring myself to do that unless I were to find myself doing a lot of this type of work.

That aside, I really enjoyed this project. I have learnt 2 new stitches and worked with 2 new threads, both of which I really like.

© Thistle Threads/Carol-Anne Conway

I shall now look forward to the next Nibble, which introduces another new old thread. I can hardly wait.

I wrote the first part of this post at the beginning of August but have just discovered that I never published it! I've now finished this into a key fob. I didn't enjoy the finishing and I didn't make a very good job of it, which is disappointing as the design is so pretty.

I found it very fiddly lacing that tiny embroidery over board and I trimmed the seem allowance too narrow, the linen was beginning to unravel and I had to be very careful with it. I also think that I should have made a thicker cord for the edging. I don't know why I didn't do that. I also think that the tassel, although nice, is too big.

© Thistle Threads/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Getting my Hand In

My instinct was to start with her face, after all if I can't get the face right, there is no point doing the rest, right?

Well, I have been so obsessed with beads lately, that I have done very little silk embroidery and I felt that it was important to 'get my hand in' before I tackled the focal point of the design.

My plan is to spend an hour each morning stitching GwaPE. This week I didn't manage to meet that target but I did do a little stitching every morning and have made a start.

I'm still not sure of what techniques I am going to use but no more prevaricating, I'm going to get on with it.

Day 1, 40 minutes

Most of this time was spent collecting together my threads and searching through a book for information on a technique that I wanted to try. Helen M Stevens creates a shadow line by using a row of stem stitch in black under the main stitches. Were the light hits the left hand side of the turban I outlined with white to create a highlight. I also stitched along bottom edge with blue. I'm hoping that this will give me a crisp line between the turban and the face.

Day 2, 40 minutes

I started stitching with a single strand of silk but as soon as I had laid three stitches I could see that this would not give sufficient coverage. I started again with two strands which gave me the coverage that I wanted.

Day 3, 20 minutes

In Japanese embroidery it is usual to leave one point open space between elements so I began that way but did not like the obvious black line this left. I removed that a restitched it slightly overlapping my stitches. This creates a slight split in the silk through which the black fabric is visible but this is far less obtrusive.

Day 4, 20 minutes

Day 5, 40 minutes

8 hours 40

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Artistically Based

Our Branch exhibition will be held in October. The title of the exhibition is Artistically Based. Exhibits can be based on the work of any artist, famous, unknown, living or dead or even your own artwork. I’ve known about the exhibition for months and known all along what I would like to do. It is a project that I had in mind since January 2008 when I saw an exhibition of Seventeenth-century Dutch portraits at Mauritshuis in The Hague. It was a stunning exhibition of paintings including many by Rembrandt and Frans Hals.

We had time to view some of the permanent collection and there was one painting I was particularly keen to see. I have always thought Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring to be hauntingly beautiful. The way she glances over her shoulder as if you have just walked into the room and surprised her is very engaging, as is the expression in her eyes. Her mouth is beautiful, even sensual. I have read that Vermeer is a master of light and this is evident no more so than in that splendid pearl and the reflection of her collar on its underside. I’ve seen many, many prints of this painting but as I have found with other works of art, they pale into insignificance compared to the original.

I did buy a print from the gallery’s gift shop and I have often thought that I would like to do my own Girl with a Pearl Earring in embroidery. Now I know that it will not come close to Vermeer’s masterpiece and would not dare to imagine I could do an exact copy but I want to make it as like the original as I possibly can. I’ve thought and worried over how to go about it, how much detail to include and what technique to use. I considered a Japanese embroidery technique called short stitch holding but I have not reached this phase yet and only know in theory how it is done. I thought about long and short stitch. This is a tried and tested method for stitching faces but I’m not very skilled at it. The one time I used it, on my Flutterbies, it took three attempts to obtain a standard I was satisfied with and that was a much simpler design. I really want to do this but fear of failure has prevented me from starting! Now I fear that I have not got enough time to actually complete it, I’ve decided I must at least try. I will probably never believe that I can do a good enough job, so if I don’t take the plunge it will never get done. It may not be perfect, I may not finish it in time for the exhibition but I AM going to try!

On Sunday I prepared my fabric, framed up and stitch transferred the design. I’ve taken the first step.

6 hours

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Happy New Year

I would not normally post twice in the same day, but this topic is completely unrelated to my earlier post.

I love this time of year. I enjoy all the seasons and which ever we are in becomes my current favourite but I think that an Indian summer, such as we are enjoying now, is definitely the best of British weather. I always feel a tingle of excitement when autumn is approaching but it has only recently occurred to why that is.

In England, the school year begins in September. We never moved house, my parents never divorced and no one close to me died (one Grandfather died before I was born, the other died when I was 5 and I barely remember him) so a new school year, a new teacher or moving to a different school were ‘big’ events in my life and they all took place in September. In my hometown the annual funfair is held on the first Monday and Tuesday after the first Sunday after the 1st of September. During the day we would go shopping for new clothes and school supplies; in the evening we would go to the fair. The last few days of the summer holiday were very exciting and spilled over into the first day of the new year.

After leaving education I worked for 15 years at a school examinations board. Our work was completely tied in with the academic year. The work was very cyclical and the cycle began in September. Every year I would work hard at the beginning of the month typesetting a report on that years examinations, then take a holiday during a brief period of calm before launching into a fresh year.

September is also my birth month. I feel a small thrill of excitement on the equinoxes and the solstices, and never more so than when the autumnal equinox falls on my birthday as it does today.

The new year may begin on January 1 according to the Gregorian calendar but on my personal calendar this is New Years Day.

I’ve got two new projects to start my new year and some exciting things planned, starting with a Japanese Beading Class this weekend.

Happy Equinox. Happy New Year.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A Needle in a Haystack

Over the weekend I did the finishing on Calm Flow as described before.

I don’t know if is was because of the different stitching techniques employed, or because I was more aware of the thread twisting but I had far fewer loops to secure than on Phase I. Clam Flow has been the most enjoyable project. I really like couching techniques and found couching the rows of beads very relaxing. Overcrowding my stitches, or in this case beads, remains a fault in my technique. I still try to squeeze in as many as will fit, rather than giving them space to breath. This applies equally to the couched lines and the random stitched beads.

Another 'difficulty' I had with this project was working with black beads on black back ground. It doesn’t seem to matter what medium you are working with, black on black is very difficult to see. In poor light you can’t see what you are doing but bright light just bounces off the beads creating glare.

In this picture I have pushed a pin through from the underside to mark the position of a thread loop. I have also pushed the needle up from the underside. They are near impossible to see against the black beads. Most of the time I know where I am expecting the needle to emerge but sometimes my spatial awareness is rather off and I had to locate the needle by carefully running my hand over the surface.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I will make this up into a folio but I want to show it to my tutor before I do the finishing.

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Calm Flow, finished

I only had a very short time for stitching this morning but I was determined to finish Calm Flow today and finish it I did.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Usually I savour the final few stitches, linger over them. This morning I didn't have time to linger. If I was going to finish Calm Flow today, I needed to get on with it. So I got on with it.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

As I was driving to work, I felt very dissatisfied. When I have spent time with a project and enjoyed it, as I have this one, the final stitches are special. This was different. I did not feel that I had honoured our final moments together. All the beads were stitched in place but I felt that I had deprived myself of something special.

Oh how weird, earlier this evening I heard someone quote a line from a film. Whilst I was typing this post the film 'Enter the Dragon' is on the television and I heard the same line "It is like a finger pointing at the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory." I concentrated on the finger. I missed the heavenly glory.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Fortunately the moon will rise again. Tomorrow I will spend my 'stitching time' savouring the beauty of Calm Flow and the time we have spent together.

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

15 Minutes and 24 Beads

This week Mary blogged about 15 Minutes and Three More Stitches. Mary is trying to stick to a rigid schedule of 15 minutes stitching a day where as I have set myself a more flexible target of doing 'some' stitching each morning before I leave for work. Mary is using a timer and stops stitching when the alarm sounds, even if there are only 3 stitches remaining. I am not the disciplined, I am always tempted to add one more bead and then one more!

Making time for a little stitching every morning is really moving this project along and the end is so close I can taste it.

When the clock told me it was time to stop stitching this morning this was all that was left to do.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

If I had only three stitches remaining, I could not have brought myself to stop. I estimate there are 24 more beads needed to complete this.
will I finish tomorrow?

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

What Lies Beneath

In the days leading up to the wedding I tried to maintain my schedule of doing a little stitching before leaving for work. On one level, it keeps my current stitching project moving along but more importantly, stitching time is me time. It sounds terribly indulgent, but it has become very important for me to take a little time each day that is purely about what I want to be doing.

With Jon leaving early for work I was able to fit in an hour stitching some mornings and made good progress. When I finally packed away my frame in the big clean up before the wedding I had completed the couching. Things like this are important to me. I would have been uncomfortable putting my stitching away if I had not reached a satisfactory break point.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

It was more than a week before I set up my frame again but for once I didn't miss it too much ;-)

The spaces between the couched lines are filled with Tataki-ume - one or two beads placed at different angles without space between the them. RANDOM!

My brain is not wired for random; when faced with random it tries to establish a method.

My first 'method' involved stitching 2 beads into the center, then stitching two more beads at an angle (not quite 90 degrees) to the first two beads. I continued to stitch 2 beads at an angle to the previous beads when ever possible and in filling with single beads where two would not fit. This method seemed to work well, although I ended up stitching with 1 bead, rather than 2, more often than not.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

My second 'method' was to stitch six beads around a single central bead to form a hexagon, then to stitch more 'hexagons' around the original. This began well but I very soon found it difficult to work out where the next hexagon should be and could see regular rows developing.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

My third 'method' was not really a method at all. While stitching, I envisaged my beads floating along in a stream. In many places the stream flows smoothly and the beads align themselves with the flow; orderly, regular and calm. In other places there are rocks below the surface that alter the coarse of the stream creating eddies and ripples. In this disturbed water the beads struggle to maintain their order, occasionally new patterns emerge and then disintegrating back into chaos. This is random. I thought these thoughts and stitched the beads were I felt they needed to be. Very zen, don't you think.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Well, I think that it worked! Maybe, finally I'm beginning to understand random.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching