Sunday, March 24, 2013

Punto Anico challenge

I love trying different embroidery techniques and usually enjoy a stitching challenge, so I spent today getting a better understanding of Punto Antico.

One of the elements often used in this technique is relatively large squares where the fabric threads are removed before the square is filled with a needlewoven motif. It all started with a stunning tray cloth embroidered by Patricia Girolami. I wish I could show it to you but I don't have it here at home. It will be published later in the year in Inspirations magazine and if you get the magazine, you will see what I mean. Anyway, as I was preparing the instructions for the project, I thought it would be a good idea to work up a small sample just to make sure I had understood everything correctly. Goodness me this stuff is tricky! I do understand the principles of this beautiful technique and the stitches themselves are really not complicated - the trick is in the tension of weaving. I guess that for a first attempt my little sample is not too bad, but it is fare from perfect. 

The main problem is the tension of both the weaving and the long spokes over which the weaving is done - more practise needed there. I know how important preparation is for any work, but I didn't pay enough attention to it when I folded the cut threads to the back. The result is an edge that for one thing is not neat but more importantly, the cut threads are not caught properly under the stitches on the wrong side so if the pieces was to be used for anything they would come undone. 

Once I got to this stage, I also realised that the linen I was using was not as fine as the one used for the original project. That partly explains why my needleweaving doesn't fill the square as well. To make the pattern work on this count linen (I used a 36, should have been a 40-count) I would need to experiment with thicker threads. Am I going to? Possibly . In a way I would like to finish this little challenge and if I do, I promise I will show you but I have run out of time for now.
At least I now understand a bit better how it works and that was the aim of the exercise in the first place.

If you want to read a bit more about Punto Antico, you can start by having a look at Jeanine Robertson's blog Italian Needlework or check out the article she has written for Interweave.

What have you worked on lately that you found really challenging?
Enjoy the rest of weekend, I am going to grab a stitching break and get a bit of fresh air,
Anna x

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stitch Chat

Have you ever used Split Stitch as a filling stitch? If you are familiar with split stitch, you might think it sounds like a slightly crazy suggestion especially when stitching with a single strand of silk but trust me, at times it makes perfect sense.
I have been using split stitch all afternoon to fill the narrow, curly shapes on the Blue Bird's shoulder and it reminded me of just how versatile a stitch it is. It is a fabulous stitch for that purpose and surprisingly not slow as one might think.

In contemporary embroidery, you might occasionally find split stitch used as a filling stitch in crewel work, but most often it is used only as a supporting stitch to outline shapes that will later be covered with another stitch, such as satin stitch or long and short stitch. However using split stitch for fillings is not a new idea. In medieval Europe the technique was widely used in both ecclesiastical and secular embroideries. In opus anglicanum, figures embroidered  entirely in split stitch with colourful silks, often with the most wonderful shading, stood against a background of solid gold.

Detail of the Cope of Pius II, embroidered in opus anglicanum in the early 
fourteenth century and donated to Pope Piccolomini at Pienza Cathedral in 1462.

Split Stitch

If you are new to split stitch, it is super simple to do:
1. Start with a small stitch at the end of the line. Bring the needle to the front, splitting the small stitch a short distance from the end. 
Take the needle to the back along the line to form a stitch the same length as the first.
2. Continue along the line, splitting each stitch as bring the needle to the front - it is not a tricky as it may sound.
2a. Wrong side. On the back of the work you will have a line of tiny stitches.

3. Corners. To turn a corner, work the last stitch just past the corner point. Bring the thread to the front, splitting the last stitch as before. Then continue along the adjacent side.
4. Curves. Adjust the length of the stitches around the curves; the tighter the curve, the shorter the stitch. This is where split stitch is really perfect. 
Split stitch filling
5. Stitch along one edge of the shape. At the edge, simply return in the opposite direction, keeping hte rows close together.
5a. Continue back and forth until the shape is filled.
If you want to watch a video tutorial, you can find a really good one on Neelde'N Thread.

I am really happy with the way these stitches worked for this part of the bird (and yes, this photo was taken upside down because that was how I was sitting at the frame at the time). 

 I am even more happy to be reminded just what can be done with this humble little stitch. What I particularly like about it here is how the result from a distance looks almost as if it is painted on. I hope you will try it too, like me, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Happy Stitching,
Anna x

Monday, March 11, 2013

getting ready

It is harvest time - almost...

The Shiraz grapes are suitably overripe and we will be picking on Wednesday. As anyone who grows anything would know, the lead-up to harvest is always a bit stressful and it will be such a relief when it is all safely at the winery. It doesn't seem that long ago that we covered the entire vineyard in nets and today pulled them all off again. 
It was hot work so it was wonderful to come in, have a long cold shower and then be surprised by the lovely feedback on Blue Birds. Thank you so much - it means a lot to me. I am glad the tip about using interfacing to protect your work was helpful. Really, it was one of those fabulous things I discovered a bit by accident and it is great to be able to share it. 

I just realised that Easter is not far away and when I sat down and put my feet up after we had finished working, I made this little doodle sketch inspired by William Morris 'Brer Rabbit'.
'Brer Rabbit' - William Morris (1882).
This fabric was designed as a tribute to Uncle Remus books first published in 1881, and a favourite of the Morris family.
I love how Morris' rabbits try to hide under the large leaves, like they are ducking for cover in the garden so nobody will discover them. My little bunny is sitting rather comfortably under a flowering bush. It needs a little bit of work if I am to do anything with it but might make a fun Easter project of some sort. I am not quite sure what... worked in crewel would be quick and fairly straight forward, it could also look pretty in silk or perhaps it would be interesting in stumpwork too. What do you think?

Happy Stitching,
Anna x

Friday, March 8, 2013

Feathered friends

I have been walking lots lately and my back is much better. Thank you so much everyone for your concern and suggestions. It seems that I am not alone when it comes to getting so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget time and place.

I used to walk a lot and I have been making an effort to go for a nice long walk each day. A 'short lap around the block' where we live is a nice 3km round trip.
It has been very hot lately though and since I am not at all a morning person, walking is only good in the early evening when the gully breeze cool everything down just a little. I don't think we have had any decent rain for about 3 month and everything is looking parched and dry. I think it is beautiful in a strange way, like it is waiting for the change that the autumn rains will bring - if they ever get here that is.
I gave up on my veggie garden a few weeks back but I did manage to find one little lonely flowering fuchsia in the garden this afternoon. One little lonely splash of colour in all the dry.

Happily back at my embroidery stand, the Blue Birds are taking shape. I am happy to be back at my frame working on the beautiful Blue bird design. It is great to get the opportunity to interpret somebody else's design for a change. You might be puzzled as to what the mellor is doing there. (a mellor is that flat tapered silver tool next to the scissor). I always have it at hand when I am working with silk and use it as a laying tool   - it fits so nicely inside your hand when you work. I really need someone next to me to photograph what I mean so that I can show you, don't I?
I had begun the shading of wing feathers the other day. I know how easily silk attracts dust and dirt so of course when I am not stitching, the frame is covered and stacked away. To keep it as clean as possible and protect the completed stitching when I am working, I have cut a hole in a small piece of non-fusible interfacing. It works really well and I like that I can still get a sense of the completed stitching underneath.

The shading on the wings is in one of my favourite colours - teal, and I am loving blending the shades to make those delicate leafy feather shapes. I must be honest though, that long and short stitch is not my strong point and getting smooth shading the small narrow shapes was a bit of a challenge at times. The wing on the right hand bird is finished and over all, I am pretty happy with how it is coming along. 
As much as I am itching to move on to the next section, I'd better finish the few last feathers on the left hand bird before I do...

sadly I have been getting more and more spam in the comments box which is rather irritating, so I have decided to activate the word verification on comments. I know they can be a bit of a pain, but please don't let that stop you, I love hearing from you. so I am really sorry if it is going to cause you trouble. If you have problems with it let me know via email needlenotesATbigpondDOTcom and I will find out how we can fix it.

Have lovely weekend,
Anna x