Friday, January 31, 2014

Colour Play

I am taking a break from very fine stitching today and playing with colours.

Since I very first saw the 'Elephant Festival' range of fabrics from Shelly Penko on Spoonflower I just loved the colour scheme and knew I just HAD to do a crewel work project in those colours.

The bright magenta and pinks with a bit of purple thrown in are not at all the kind of colours I am usually drawn to, but these fabulous, happy patterns were just too inspiring. I put a couple of images with the colours I was working with together (+ one with a bright orange fist just for fun) and even found a mug that kind of had a similar feel to it.

Do you find you tend to stick to the same colours over and over again? I do, so it is nice to try something new from time to time. You never know how it will end up.
It was really nice to sit and do a bit of colouring in for a change and despite the 'unfamiliar' colours it went really easy. Now let the stitching begin...

Enjoy your weekend,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stitching hands free

The vines are netted...
... and if it wasn't for the beaming sunshine and 35 degrees Celsius you could be forgiven for thinking they were covered in a sprinkling of frost. It looks rather pretty really with the white veils waving in the breeze.

So today I escaped the heat and was back inside working on my 'Queen Bee'. It was nice to add some more colours and I had hoped to reach the wings but didn't quite get there. There are now 7 needles threaded, one for every colour change. As you can imagine it is very easy to get in a terrible tangle if you are not careful.

One thing is keeping track of all the threads but as with any metal thread embroidery, you really need two hands free at all times to work and manipulate the metallic threads. Hanging on to a hoop or frame is really not an option. For years I used a covered brick to 'clamp' the hoop or frame to the table top. I loved my brick and it was perfect for the job.

A year or so ago my lovely brick retired when I did buy a new a new tool - an embroidery stand. It is by far the best thing I have ever invested in!

This is my new best friend Lowery!
I absolutely LOVE it and this is why:
1. It is slim-line and super, super sturdy. But not heavy, so you can easily move it about. The solid metal plate (which I forgot to photograph - ups) does not get in the way of chair legs. I have covered mine with adhesive felt so it slides easily across the timber floors.
2. The generous clamp will hold hoops and frames of most sizes and thicknesses. I have had quite sizeable frames in it and it was perfect. 
3. My favourite part: The clamp section can easily be loosened and rotated so that you can get to the back of your work. I love that bit - with most other stands, turning your work is not always that easy.
4. Everything is adjustable! You can swing the arm in any direction you wish, change the hight to suit which ever chair you are sitting in and tilt the hoop to make your stitching as comfortable and easy to get to as possible. 

I confess, I now do the vast majority of my embroidery accompanied by my friend Lowery. You can get all sorts of attachments for it too. As you can imagine, they are not light so if you want one shipping can be costly. They are made by a small family business in the UK but I know they are distributed in the US, Canada and Australia - probably other places too. If you are interest, I suggest you just do an online search for your nearest supplier or contact Lowery Workstands here and I am sure they are able to help you. 

If you have been following along here for a while, you would know that I do not usually give particular products a 'plug' - I just find this particular stand so amazingly practical to use and thought you might like to know about it.

Enjoy your week,
Anna x

Friday, January 24, 2014

Queen Bee - Take three

I have started working on my Or Nué Queen Bee - well actually I have started it three times. So much for thinking I wasn't going to do any samples first!
 As usual, I started all excited and energetic. As soon as I moved away from it a little later, I realised the colours I had used for the honeycomb pattern was too dark. It would most certainly overpower the bee. Rather than wasting time trying to unpick, I just started again - this time swapping the two shades of silk...
 ... and what a difference it made. It is tricky to photograph metallic threads and silk well because of all the reflections, but I hope you can see what I mean. Happy with the colours, I was really cross with myself for not having paid proper attention to pattern - the honeycomb is very crooked. Should I worry about it? Seen from a distance it really didn't look too bad at all...
If it was just for myself, I probably would not have worried about it (then again, I probably would). But the thing is, this piece will be used for teaching and I will be using really, really, really close-up photos, so no place for 'sloppy' stitching.

This time I did rip it out. Taking my time with the first two rows - careful stitching, straight rows, even stitches and tight turns. Those turns really do require a bit of practise... If you don't get the right and tight enough the edges start curving, getting you in to all sorts of trouble.
So far so good - by the end of today it was starting to take shape. I am rather excited to start adding the colours for the bee itself - seven needles in work by now and still a couple more to come.
Will it happen this weekend? Probably not - the grapes are turning and we have to net the vineyard before the birds spot them and get too excited. I just HAD to show you how it was going.

Have a lovely weekend,
Anna x

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I am inspired...

... by the work of  Sue Stone.

Detail of 'RIP Grimsby St' by Sue Stone 
It is a little while since I cam across Sue's work (and yes, you guessed it, I did discover it on Pinterest LOL) but it has stayed with me ever since - her embroidered characters and the stories they tell are so engaging.

 'RIP Grimsby St' by Sue Stone
'RIP Grimsby St E2' by Sue Stone
"Often displaying a slightly surreal sense of humour, my work challenges both identity and preconception whilst 'at first glance' appearing homely and domestic." ~ Sue
There is something about the tones and almost monochrome colouring of her pieces that remind me of old newspaper clippings and the mostly nostalgic characters placed in contemporary settings makes me stop and wonder - who are these people?.

'Tea Party in Tokoy 2' (2013)
I am intrigued by embroidered figures and there is really not many stitchers who embroider people, let alone do it well. It amazes me how cleverly, with just simple stitches, Sue manages to add so much personality and character to the faces of the figures she creates.

Studies for 'A Nice Cup of Tea 2' and 'A Tea Party in Tokoy'
As someone who tends to get carried away and uses a multitude of stitches - Sue's pieces are a beautiful remainder of how pictures can be 'painted' with simple and cleverly placed stitches. I need a remainder like that from time to time. In fact I dare to say that studying these is a fine master class in creating fabric textures from knitted sweaters to tweed jackets! 

'Do You Come Here Often?' 
You can explore more of Sue's work on her Website and Blog.

Anna x 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Meet Queen Bee

I have been asked to design and teach another Or Nue project and I am super excited to get it started. If you are not familiar with Or Nue, it is a goldwork technique, where metal threads are laid closely together so that they completely cover the fabric. The image is created by couching the metal in place with coloured silk threads. It is extremely beautiful, well I think so anyway.
The thing is, it is very, very slow and requires a fair bit of accuracy, so it is not everybody's cup of tea. I like it. Once I start and get into a rhythm of stitching, I find the repetitive and methodical stitching extremely satisfying.
Anyway, enough talk - this is what I am about to start..

Meet Queen Bee. The idea of a bee came from the girls in my last class. Well, they were comparing the brick couching to the look of a straw beehive and it slowly evolved from there. I have had the idea of a bee sitting on a bed of honeycomb since then, so getting the actual design drawn up was kind of fun. As usual it begins with a few rough doodle drawings (I do like the idea of a snail too, perhaps I will do that next?) and then bit by bit it is refined into a final line drawing to work from.
As we all do, I roughly knew what a bee looked like, but flicking through images on Pinterest (oh, how I love Pinterest) certainly helped getting finer details right. Pinterest is so perfect both for inspiration in general and also for finding images to piece a mood board together. 
The vague picture I had in my head of a bee on a glowing background of honeycomb - was a bit like the image copied onto centre of my mood-board. Isn't it beautiful? That glow is what I am aiming for.
 I am now itching to get started. The fabric and threads were ready a few days ago, but the crazy hot weather we had last week simply didn't mix well with super fine silk, so it has just been sitting there - waiting. Today is the day and I can't wait...

I hope you too have a lovely weekend.
To those who are in the one of the fire zones in Australia, please stay safe.
Anna X

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Over the hills progress

I managed to finish the hills before we went on holiday but just didn't get time to show you. Overall I am pretty happy with how they turned out.
Although I am not convinced that they are finished... only time will tell. And the lower edge is 'all over the place'. At first I thought I would cover it, but the more I look at it, the more I like it being so uneven, it kind of softens the the rather tight composition of the hills.
I am particularly pleased with the lower right hand hill. The alternating bands of closely worked stem stitch and open herringbone stitch looks a bit like rows of vines, don't you think? It wasn't at all intentional, it just happened but I am quite sure I will use it again some time.
The large hill in the centre is simply rows and rows of detached chains (lazy daisy). The anchoring stitches are rather long and are placed in between the stitches in the previous row which is how the colours in each row is blended into the one another.
And now she's got boots - shiny, red silk boots with little frilly socks sticking out the top. By that time it was very late so the laces are still to come.
She does also have a head, but without hair and body, it looks really, really odd so I will show you that one later - once she is decent! The clothing too is on its way, but I am not completely happy with how the needle lace pieces have turned out. They are too heavy and clumsy, even though they are worked with just a single strand of silk. I have an idea how I might fix it, but until it is done and I can take photos and compare the two, there is really not much to show - nothing that would make any sense anyway.
The next few weeks are going to be rather busy with other projects, so this one might have to go on the 'back-burner' again. I don't mind - it is rather nice to have a project to pick up from time to time.

I hope you are having a nice week. Ours in Adelaide is sweltering and I need to tackle some really fine silk - not a good combination.
Stay cool or warm, what-ever is most appropriate.

Anna x

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunshine days

There is nothing quite like a long walk at the beach is there?
We are so, so lucky to have the most spectacular beaches and walking trails only a very short distance from home - not that we enjoy them as often as we should, but last week we spent a few days away with a couple of friends we had not seen for a very, very long time. It was awesome...

If you are in the cold and dark northern end of the globe, I hope this little bit of sunshine warmed your day.

Have a fabulous week,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hello 2014

I love the start of January! The feeling of rounding off what was and looking towards what the new year will bring. You just never quite know do you, and I like that.

At the same time I always wonder just exactly where the past 12 months went and it is nice to be able to wander back through the months that past - it does appear that I kept rather busy!

I stitched - a lot!

Goldwork in JANUARY  'Spring Daisy' 
Crewel work in FEBRUARY 
Was challenged by Punto Antico in MARCH
Relaxed with Wool embroidery in APRIL...
...and finished 'Blue Birds and Berries' design by Nicola Jarvis in APRIL
More Crewel Work in MAY
Stumpwork in JUNE

a FREE give-away in JULY
More Crewel Work in AUGUST
1st Birthday in SEPTEMBER
New Ideas for Crewel Work in OCTOBER
Finished Stumpwork for classes in NOVEMBER
Played with stitched in DECEMBER

I designed...
Mood board for 'Sweet Honeysuckle'

I grew the shop - and packed kits...

'Blue Petals' Crewel Work kit

But most importantly - I watched the seasons change...

enjoyed time with family and friends - and made time me to appreciate the simple things...

Unexpected visitors
Quiet walks
Beautiful landscapes
Picking flowers in the garden

Apart from my computer spending time at the computer hospital with a nasty virus, I have a really good feeling about 2014. I feel more than ready to dive in with plans, dreams, changes to make and ideas to try out that I am certain will make the next 12 months fly by just as fast as the past year did.

I love your company here and feel so grateful to have met so many like-minded souls who share my passion for what can be created with just needle and thread. I hope you too will continue to enjoy your embroidery as much as I do.

Happy Stitching,
Anna x