Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Queen Bee Finished

Don't you just love that strangely satisfying but at the same time slightly empty feeling when you finish a project?

I am quite happy with the way the honeycomb background turned out. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but viewed from a distance the effect is exactly what I was hoping for.

I often find myself wondering if I really did that when I look at a finished piece. Strange I know. So I am loving that by blogging about my projects I end up with a great record to see how I got from the beginning to the end. It is also a great remainder of the lessons learned along the way - and there is always something new to learn.

1. Meet Queen Bee
2. Queen Bee - Take three
3. Stitching hands free
4. Queen Bee takes flight
5. Size matters
6. Queen Bee finished or not?

If I was super diligent, I would now stay here at the keyboard and get the instructions prepared while it is all fresh. But you know - that sort of thing can be done in the evening and there is a beautiful light in my work room today and a project waiting to get started - doesn't that sounds like a lot more fun to you?

Hope you are having a fabulous start to the week.
Anna x

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hot tomatoes

To me a good weekend is when I get something done. Since my bag has come to a grinding halt, the weather is a little cooler and my tomatoes have finally started to produce more fruit than we can possibly eat, yesterday was labelled 'tomato sauce making day'.

Have you ever had home made tomato sauce? I am not much of a sauce person, but even I cannot resist home made tomato sauce and this recipe that Adrian's mum gave to me is really, really yummy.

Home made tomato sauce
3kg tomatoes
1 apple
5g cayenne pepper (didn't have any so I used some crushed chilli instead)
50g garlic
350ml white vinegar
500g sugar 
1tbs salt
15g cloves
30g fresh ginger

Cook for 4 hours. The spices can be put in a bag and removed after the first three hours of cooking but I usually just put everything in there and it seems to work fine.
I remove the lid the last 30min or so to let it thicken up a little bit. You can strain it if you prefer it really smooth, which is what the original recipe said to do. I just let it cool a bit and put it through the blender then bring it back to the boil and into sterilised bottles. 

I was wondering if I perhaps needed a bigger pot? Should be ok if I watched it closely, shouldn't it? I only left it for a few minutes (promise) and Disaster!!! There was hot, sticky tomato juice on the stove, all over the bench, down the front of the cupboards onto the floor and even inside the top drawer. It is simply way too embarrassing showing that part! So, a big clean-up and four hours later...

... voila! Taste tested tonight over BBQ lamb chops and it was given the thumbs up.
Now back to the stitching. It is a little late, but if I picked up the needle now, I should be able to finish the background for Queen Bee - now that would make it super productive weekend, wouldn't it?

Hope you have had a lovely, relaxing weekend.
Anna x

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bag making

I had hoped to show you a finished bag with the AUTUMN GOLD crewel piece today.

I found a couple of fabrics a few days ago that I thought might work. Both happen to be from my friend Michele Hill's William Morris collection. As much as I love Michele's work, that is not why I chose them - they just fitted, the colours are perfect (I think) and the patterns compliment embroidery.

I found a fabulous Free pattern & tutorial for a Satchel/messenger bag HERE. The minute I saw it, I knew it was the perfect size and the fact that the blog is called 'No Time to Sew' kind of indicated that it couldn't be that difficult. It has a really handy front pocket under the flap and several internal pockets. I was certain that with a few very minor tweaks, such as piping the front, it would be just perfect! And it wasn't hard to make at all - the tutorial is brilliant. I was on a real roll, determined to finish in one go until....

... one of the internal pockets is a zipped pocket and with all the zips in my stash do I have one that can be used? - Yes, but it is lime green and I refuse to have a lime green zip inside my bag, even if nobody but me will ever see it. So, as even I cannot justify a one and half hour round trip in the car to buy a zip, the bag has come to a grinding halt.
I promise it will be finished on Monday and I will show you some better pictures.

Enjoy your Friday,
Anna x

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Queen Bee finished or not?

I finished the Or Nué Queen Bee last week - or the Or Nué part of the design at least.

I am really quite pleased with how it turned out as the honeycomb background turned out to be a lot more tricky to get to look nice and even than I had anticipated. It is by no means perfectly even, but I think I managed to achieve the effect I set out to.

Although this part is finished, it didn't look finished - if that makes any sense. It is kind of just floating on the fabric, not belonging. I am terrible at not planning and testing ideas before I start, instead I just dive in, head first and try to solve what-ever it may be along the way. When I started this it, I thought that perhaps it could be made into a brooch or something like that. Which is why I embroidered straight onto backed quilter's muslin instead of a nice silk ground. Despite it being small, it is still way too large for a brooch - well to my liking anyway. So what to do.....?

Set it into a paperweight perhaps? It does look very neat and the glass really brings out the detail of the stitching. The background fabric would need to be covered to for this option to look nice. That lead to the next idea...

Last year, after finishing my White Daisy, I filled in the area around it with very, very close rows of stem stitch. I know I am possibly slightly nuts, but I could easily fill in enormous areas with rows and rows of stem stitch. I love it - how you can create a super smooth surface. Perhaps I could do something similar with Queen Bee? Pondering the idea for a day or so it occurred to me - why not try and continue the honeycomb pattern onto the background?

It is when I get ideas like that after most of a design is complete, that I really, really wish I had thought of it earlier. If I had worked on layered fabrics I am not sure I would have dared taking it out of the hoop, but for this project I had backed the muslin with a woven fusible interfacing, which gives me a very sturdy and firm ground to stitch on. So out of the hoop it came and back onto the lightbox, trying to line up the honeycomb pattern to continue, keeping my fingers crossed that it would work...

... and this morning I finally had to time to get a good chunk of stitching done. I think it works - [happy face].

Enjoy your Tuesday,
Anna X

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hot off the hoop

I don't really mind hot weather but with the 12th day in a row over 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in Adelaide it is fair to say I do start to look forward to a cool change. My poor veggie garden is surviving (just) but looks strangely like the tent city at some groovy music festival.

Not very flattering really. But underneath is a cosy little haven, the plants are hanging in there - gasping for air, but hanging in there none the less.

Embroidery and heat doesn't go well together but sitting idle is not really my strong point - my fingers itch. Besides I was dying to try these fabulous colours for my little flower sampler. 

Part of the 'Elephant Festival' range by Shelly Penko on Spoonflower
These are prints from Shelly Penko's 'Elephant Festival' range on Spoonflower that first gave me the idea - how can you not want to dive in to these amazing colours? I have ordered a piece of the 'Elephant Festival Flowers" (left) which I plan to use when I make the project up into - something. Just short of 13cm (5") tall, it is a good size for a journal cover perhaps? 

So, positioning myself directly under the ceiling fan, I sat out to just stitch a little bit, just enough to try those glorious colours... then a bit more... and a few more stitches... and then I only really had a tiny bit to go so...

...I finished it (yes it had cooled down enough to venture outside by then). I just love, love, love this colour scheme. It is not a colour combination I in my wildest fantasy would have picked, but it was such a joy to stitch. In fact I am quite certain that a much larger project could be on its way!
However this on is small, partly because it is designed for a one day workshop. So, it needs a name - any suggestions?

Have a glorious, colourful week,
Anna x

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Just kitting

We had another super hot day yesterday - and windy, so I spent the afternoon indoors making up kits for the shop. By the way, what to you think of the new banner? - a little more colourful, isn't it. 

All three Tulipa kits: the bird panel, scissor case and pin cushion are now back up - they had been out for a while. This is still one of my favourite designs to date. It was so a joy to stitch and it makes me happy each time a look at it.

I also finished this one...

... and renamed it AUTUMN GOLD. The glow of the burnt yellows and splashes of bright blue reminded me of crisp and bright autumn morning. Perhaps I am just hanging out for crisp mornings considering all the hot weather we have had of late. What do you think?
I am really happy with how it turned out. It was fun to stitch and such a manageable size too. I have even managed to write it up so that too was kitted up for the shop yesterday. You can find the KIT here and the Downloadable pattern here .

I am usually no good at all in making useful things from my pieces - once the embroidery is complete I kind of loose interest a bit. Not this time though - I am going to make this one into a smallish satchel bag. I have a lovely Cath Kidtson bag that a friend gave me and I love it - almost to bits, so I need a new, and slightly smaller bag.
Perhaps I will get the sewing machine out this afternoon - just need to move some sheep, net the last few late vines and check on the veggie patch.

Enjoy your Sunday,
Anna x

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Size matters

I have been beavering away at the Queen Bee and with a bit of luck the main part will be complete this weekend. 

I have recently had to give in and get glasses (turned out I was more blind than I thought - who knew how bright a place the world could be LOL) and certainly never had to use a magnifier to stitch, but oh how times have changed. With this little project, I am finding I need to use both my new super, duper specs and the magnifer - it's a pain and I don't like it, but (sigh) - never mind , moving right along.
The thing is that each time I step away from it and look at it from a distance I am surprised by two things:
1 - how little the whole thing really is and
2 - how all those little imperfections I keep seeing through my 'looking-glass' don't seem to be such a big deal.
This probably sounds crazy, but despite the wee size of this piece - I still think it is too big for a class project.

I prefer student to be well under way with a project at the end of a class and I am not so sure that will be the case with this one. In theory, placing stitches in coloured silk over gold threads sounds pretty simply - and it is. Getting it right takes a little bit of practise and, the thing is there are quite a few of them to get the dense colour. More importantly, when laying gold threads back and forth across a shape it needs to be turned neatly at each side one every row - that too takes a bit of practise.
So the conclusion is: I need to do a smaller version for a class project! But first, of course, I need to finish this one. Oh bliss, that I get to stitch every day at the moment. Lucky me.

Enjoy the rest of your week,
Anna x

Monday, February 3, 2014

Queen Bee takes flight...

..well almost. 
It is a good feeling to have reached the top of the main part of the body. I am deliberately leaving spaces between the stitches on the wings to allow the gold to shine through so the rest will seem like a breeze after the very, very dense stitching of the stripes.

I am using Pipers Floss Silk for the couching. This is a very fine filament silk with a beautiful sheen. It is probably not the best silk to work with if you have never used silk before - it is super fine and because it untwisted it catches so, so easily. Even the slightest roughness on your hands can get you into all sorts of trouble. Not good for someone like me who loves the garden but tend to garden without wearing gloves.  

These pictures should give you an idea of how fine it is, I threaded one stand of cotton (floss) into a no. 10 embroidery needle (left) and a strand of Pipers Silk into a second needle (left) - then worked a few chain stitches with each for comparison. Yes, it is crazy fine and tiny! 

So, why do I use it? I have found it to be PERFECT for Or Nue because the flat, fine silk lets me work very, very dense stitches over the metal threads without creating bulk. This is super important when the stitching is really dense in some areas and not in others otherwise you end up with 'bulging' sections.

I confess I sometimes wonder why I spend so many hours bent over something so tiny and fine it makes my eyes hurt. Then again, when I step away and look at it from a distance the next day - it does seem like it is well worth the effort! 
She should have eyes next time you see her.

Happy Stitching,
Anna X