Wednesday, January 31, 2007

TAST 5 Chevron stitch

Evidently I'm not the only one who has problems using the good materials. I was surfing around the TAST webring and came upon Lisa of Enter The Stitcher and along with her week 4 stitching she writes about what she has learned, including:

"The world will not end if I use my stash. Seriously, I had no problem dipping into my fabric and pulling out the biggest piece of linen I had on hand (18"x27" of 32 ct. Belfast linen), but working with threads other than ones I was sure I would use any time soon, oh the horror. Needless to say, I'm over it. Thread can be replaced, easily. Especially DMC."

As I was contemplating what to do with the Chevron this week, I saw Christine's pyramid at Lady Jane's Journal which made me think of filling stitch for crewel work, something I've always admired but never tried. So I started to create an block of Chevron which was fine at first when the diamond pattern was formed, but then I didn't like my next variation. At that point, I was reminded of Florentine patterns and did the next rows which I do like. This week I used some DMC perle cotton that I have never used. I really like the sheen of this thread (the pinks). The blues are DMC craft thread from a multicolour pack. It is softer than the perle and has no sheen and untwists easily so I can't see using it too much for embroidery. I can see the appeal of the perle for cq seams though because it shows up much better than the usual floss I work with. I'll have to get a nice selection for the cq block I've started.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I LOVE orchids! Ever since I saw the pansies in posy holders made by Marsha Papay-Gomola at EGA National I have been thinking about making a 3-D stumpwork orchid. Well, one of the Stitching Post members did one that is wonderful. I hope this link works:

Celeste mentions that she has a couple of orchids in bloom at home that she will try next. Not wanting to wait for mine to bloom (I have three sending up buds right now) I went to the Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden in Richmond, VA and had my fill of orchids at the conservatory. Here is a selection of photos - my husband took them while I just stood and stared! Imagine dozens of orchids like these in a tropical waterfall setting - pictures can't do it justice.

I am working on a daffodil for my spring bouquet right now but as soon as I figure out how to do these colours, I think I'll try an orchid.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Guilt and a new flower

Kate left me the comment that she laughed at my guilt about using ribbon because she had guilt without being Hungarian or Jewish. I have this theory that there are different types of guilt that could maybe be different nationalities of guilt, I'll have to do some research.

I learned the never use the new/good stuff yourself guilt from my grandmother - actually my Namama, my childish corruption of the Hungarian for grandmother. When I was in university I lived with Namama and one year I decided to get her a new bathrobe for Christmas. She was using a ratty old thing that my mother had made at least 25 years before in high school home ec class. The terry loops were worn off in many places and it couldn't have been very comfortable. So I purchased a beautiful new butter-coloured terry robe for her. Of course she wouldn't wear it. It sat around for 2 years then she gave it to me. Well, I graduated, moved out, did my Master's, got married, and moved out of the country. Then she came to visit. By that time, the butter-coloured robe was my old, back-up robe. Namama didn't want to pack her bathrobe and so she asked to borrow one, so I lent her the old robe. Believe it or not, and I'm sure you will, she decided she now like it and took it home with her and used it until she died 10 years later! So you must admit that I learned self denial guilt from a master.

I'm getting better though because as mentioned before, I'm keeping my stumpwork tulip instead of giving it away, and now I've made some forget-me-nots. It was quite a challenge to get the flowers so small and figure out what to do with the stems. I wrapped most of the wire stems, but for the extra flowers, I purchased some 32 gauge covered florist's wire (it was only $1.29 for a whole spool so there was no guilt).

I tried first with some detached chain stitch, but the flower was too big, although I think I'll use it later for some other technique.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Book Reviews - 'Mark of the Lion'

First of all, thank you so much to those who have left comments or sent me comments on the SP list. As a very new blogger it is exciting to know people have actually read something you wrote. I'm not sure what blog etiquette requires, but if it is considered wrong not to respond to every comment I am sorry - I have tried to answer questions when time and memory permit - I admit that sometimes if I don't do something immediately, I forget to do it later because I've moved on to the next task.

As well as being an obsessive embroiderer, I am also an obsessive reader. Luckily for me, I married a wonderful man who is also obsessive about reading. Unluckily, it made packing up and moving a terrible task. I do some reviewing of science books for a couple of publications meant for librarians, and I've included needlework book reviews in the newsletter I edit, but there are so many other books that I want to share it seems a good idea to write about them.

Today I finished 'The Mark of the Lion' by Suzanne Arruda. This is the first book in a new mystery series set in Africa after WWI. The heroine is Jade del Cameron, an American who drove an ambulance during the war. Of course she is slim and beautiful, but at the same time she defies convention and wears her hair short and doesn't worry about fashionable clothing, in fact she wears pants much of the time. She was brought up on a New Mexico ranch, with a Spanish mother and Irish-mix father, so she can ride and shoot with the best of them. Her time in the war taught her to repair cars as well. In general a capable, down-to-earth person. As well as a knee wound, she also has some emotional scars from the war, namely a fear of noises that sound like bombs and hysterical laughter. In this mystery, she has the task of finding the brother of the pilot who wanted to marry her during the war. The pilot died in a plane crash, but now the war is over and she feels she needs to honour his dying wish.

This is a very well written book and really draws you in to the atmosphere of Kenya after WWI. The heroine and the other characters are all interesting, if not lovable, and there is a bit of magic in the plot as well.

As an aside here, I generally don't like mystery and fantasy in the same book. I love both genres but I don't always like the mix. I love the Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron but I don't like all the supernatural in Carrie Bebris' series Mr & Mrs Darcy Mysteries because Jane Austen made fun of the gothic so it doesn't seem right. Anyway, back to the book at hand.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it highly to those who like mysteries. There are enough plot twists to keep you guessing (unless like me you read the back of the book first) and the writing is very good. I am now waiting for the next volume in this new series, Stalking Ivory, to be processed by the library. I am first on the waiting list.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

TAST4 Cretan stitch

As well as taking the TAST challenge to expand my stitch repertoire and create a stitch book, I also wanted to experiment with colour and threads, or in this case ribbon. I am trying to over my reluctance to use good supplies (like real silk thread) for practice stitching. There is some Hungarian Jewish guilt there telling me I can't use the expensive stuff unless I'm doing something important. So today, I broke out some silk ribbon and tried stitching. I had used some silk ribbon in my Chawton Cottage picture, but only as straight stitches. I can't believe how much fun it was to work with ribbon! I'm sure there are some places where you would want to coax the ribbon to fold in a specific way, but for today I let the ribbon do what it wanted with each stitch. According to my Kooler book, the vertical Cretan is called quill stitch and I found the leaf in the old standby, Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, as a closed Cretan. I will be sure to try more with ribbon in the future!

For those hoping for spring I thought you would enjoy my few crocus flowers. I planted mixed crocus bulbs a couple of years ago and the yellow always bloom first. Then white, then purple and purple striped come out last. I don't know if it is because of the cheap Home Depot bulbs I planted (some flowers are quantity not quality for me) or whether this is a common observation. It was the same pattern when I lived on Long Island as well. Whatever the case, I am grateful to have flowers in the garden now that the camellia have stopped blooming.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

TAST 3 Chain stitch part 2

This is a roundel from one of Jane Nicholas' books. I love the swirling lines and thought it would be fund to do it all with chain stitch and a few variations. I thought it would be nice to do an actual picture for practice now and then, rather than just rows of stitches.

As an update on my tulip, post below, after sleeping on it, I decided that I would keep it for myself and do a whole mini- bouquet and make another tulip for my mother. Thanks to everyone here and on Stitching Post for the comments. Christine suggested using floral parafilm or really stretching the floral tape, so I'm going to work on getting the stem right on the second tulip and future flowers. Some people were quite understanding about me obsessing about the stem. Usually I am happy with what I do but every once and a while, something just gets me and I can't think of the whole picture. At least now I have an excuse and some ideas to try again, and again...

Christine is from Australia so I have no idea if I can get floral parafilm here. I know about regular parafilm for using in laboratories. Many years ago, about 20, I used to wait around for my husband as he finished experiments for his PhD, and I would make mini parafilm sculptures after balling up a square and warming it up to make it pliable. If people can make duct tape sculptures, why not parafilm!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thinking of Spring

As a gardener, I've always started thinking of spring flowers in January. Even though they come sooner here in VA than they did in Canada, I still long for spring. And the two yellow crocus that came out during the heat wave last weekend don't count for me.

So I made my own tulip to help me feel like spring is coming. This is for the posy holder in my earlier post:Life, needlework and everything: Lapel pins

When I first finished the tulip, my husband said " This is your best yet but what about inside? People are going to look inside." So I went back to the drawing board and finished the inside.

Then I made a leaf of detached buttonhole in a wire frame. All in all, I'm very happy with the way it has turned out, since it really was a total experiment with no planning. I'm still not sure about what to do with the stem though. The consensus here at home is that the floral tape is fine but part of me feels that it should be covered in thread. But then it will be thicker and won't look in proportion to the flower. Any suggestions?

TAST 3 Chain stitch part 1

This is part one because I haven't yet finished my attempts at stitching something new but I wanted to show how I've used chain stitch in the past for building a garden. These are close-ups from the Chawton Cottage garden I showed in my first blog post. In the photo below, the pink dahlias are pink chain stitch, gradually changing sizes and overlapping to form a many layered flower. Orange chain stitch is used from some marigolds, and the small pink flowers, impatiens, have chain stitch leaves as do the greyish green lamb's ears next to them.

In the photo below, chain stitch is used in the lazy daisy style to make the red geranium flowers but then the stitch is reversed so tacked end is in the center for the blue flowers, browallia ( from Window Gardens in Bloom by Margaret Vant Erve)

The leaves on the climbing rose below are chain stitch done with two shade of flower thread.

Every leaf on this tree is a chain stitch and I layered them with branches to try and make something somewhat realistic looking. I used overdyed silk - one of my favourite threads.

I guess in embroidery, you can't make a garden without chain stitch.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First CQ block

After contemplating crazy quilting for quite a while, I finally did something. It is interesting that while I can go off without a pattern while doing embroidery, I just couldn't bring myself to cut fabric without a pattern. So thanks to ktj, The Stitching Post founder, I received some patterns I could print out and here it is, my first block. Now, of course, I need to embroider it. I know there will be a dragon appliqued to the center, but after that I'm not sure. I'll need to check my stash of metallic threads I think, to keep up the magical night theme. Any helpful hints at this point, before I make a mess of things, would be great.

Speaking of ktj, her chain stitch piece is fantastic! The colours and patterns and the way everything swirls together is just a delight - be sure to see it.

Katie's New Place: 01 13 07-Stitch Practice Chain stitch

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lapel pins

Back in October at the EGA National Seminar, I took a one day course from Marsha Papay-Gomola to learn stumpwork and make the Autumn Lapel Pin (left). I made it as a gift for my mother. When it was done, my daughter told me I needed to make her a pin for each season so I designed and stitched the Christmas pin with holly, ivy and mistletoe. It was great fun. Now I'm working on a tulip which you can see the start of below. Today I realized that even with a couple of tulip leaves, the wire stem, which will be covered in florist's tape, will still show and I think it will be too thich if I try to stitch around it. So I'm thinking of a bunch of forget-me-nots to cover the stem. I'll post photos soon since I'm on the last tulip petal.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

TAST 2 Buttonhole stitch

Here are a few bits of buttonhole stitching. According to the Donna Kooler book mentioned below, the spaced legs are blanket stitch and the closely packed legs are buttonhole, but I'm not sure it really matters to me, what matters is the effect I'm looking for. Anyway, the red row is just testing, trying to get things even. I kept miscounting and one time when I was trying to find the right hole, I pulled the stitches and found I could twist the buttonhole from side to side. So, below the red line is a pink buttonhole wheel flower with a twisted buttonhole stem and buttonhole leaves where the legs alternate sides like some of sharon b's samples. I also did a detached buttonhole leaf in the upper right. My passion right now is for stumpwork, so I wanted to try the detached stitch, which was fun. The blue line is actually using buttonhole and blanket on an edge. The pink curves are closed and crossed blanket from the Kooler book. I was trying to make a straight line without counting but you see I'm hopeless - which is why I usually try to stitch organic things. Another stumpwork use for buttonhole is below.

This is a new 3-D piece I'm doing - a tulip to go in a posy holder (I've posted my other two posy holder arrangements on the Stitching Post blog but I'll try to post them here later). I'm doing a Rembrandt tulip - the photo in the middle. The left side is the buttonhole outline which is covering the wire - the center line is wire covered in satin stitch. The right photo is the finished petal. Only 5 more to go - and then a leaf!

This is what I am doing with my samples. While organizing I found an unused photo album - not full-sized but about 8"x9" - with pages that hold 2 4"x6" photos. So the top space is used for a card that explains what I have done and the bottom holds the fabric. For now I'm putting the stitches in by week, but when I'm done I'll decide if it is better to put things in alphabetically or arrange by stitch family and add an index.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another stitcher in the family

While I work on my buttonhole TAST I thought you would like to see the work of another family artist. My daughter loves dragons and named her Guinea pig after Ramoth the gold dragon in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. So the Christmas stocking for the Guinea pig has a dragon on it. She designed it by drawing the design on some muslin and then embroidered it with various cotton flosses. I sewed it up and added the name and bow border on the sewing machine.

The same technique is being used on a tapestry we are making with her art club at school. The art club teacher was very receptive to my idea for a state map with various embroidered motifs done by the club. The kids have drawn plants, animals, boats, etc. and will embroider them on muslin which will then be appliqued onto the main map. The main map will be painted on cloth with embroidered outlines. This kids will paint in mountains, water, etc. The final 'tapestry' will hang in the school. I was inspired by the EGA National Tapestry I saw at the National Seminar in October and the wonderful maps being done by Catherine Jordan. Catherine is part of my EGA chapter and graciously came to the art club to teach fabric painting. The kids loved it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Herringbone TAST week 1

Well, here we go. A day late due to some committments yesterday, but I did get to do some herringbone. I tried basic open and closed herringbone, then I tried stacking to see what sort of fill pattern you would get with in line and half off. Either would make a nice garden trellis depending on the size you wanted. I had to try some wrapped herringbone because I like the curves against the angles. I'm rather partial to the four colour woven strip of double herringbone (quadrouple herringbone?), but I might choose different colours next time. And of course I had to try flowers - just added straight stitches for the stem and French knots to fill in the flowers.

I picked up 4x6 cards at the office store to fit in the photo album I'm using as a stitch sample book. I had originally thought to put a description on half the card and stick my sample on the other half but now that I've started I think I'll put descriptions on one card in the top pocket and samples on another card in the pocket below (each page has 2 4x6 pockets) - that way I can write more and reference any books used. In this case, I looked at Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Needlework where she suggested that up to six colours could be used for the double herringbone - muddling through 4 colours was enough.

The holidays are officially over. The guests are mostly gone and the rest of the family is back to work or school. So I finally have time to sit at the computer and write. I've been reflecting mainly on the mix of emotions when company visits, especially around the holidays. It is so wonderful to have people here to enjoy the holidays with, but when you are like me and love having down time every day, it can be exhausting. But when you live far away from any family member, having them visit is the best way to spend time. My mother, who came for Christmas for the first time, reminisced about the holidays when I was young. She made mince pies and two kinds of fruitcake and tons of cookies and treats, starting in November, then had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners for any family in town, then a neighbourhood New Year's party. At the end she was completely exhausted but she said she wouldn't have done anything different.

So I guess I feel the same way. Except I would have liked more time to try out my new lute - I've only had time to practice twice and I'm still not sure that I have it tuned properly, it seems lower than the lutes on the CDs I have. I've also had little time to stitch - I've just started the sampler band RR you see above for the Stitching Post RR I'm participating in starting in February. But I finished all the ironing that has built up yesterday so I could spend guilt free time today working on the herringbone stitch!