Sunday, March 30, 2014

Simple challenge

We've had the most glorious, later summer sunshine this weekend...

...and I spent quite a few hours in the garden. I just happened to stumble across a couple of sweet little plants, begging to come home with me when I was a the nursery the other day and with autumn just around the corner, it is a good time to get digging. It is amazing what a couple of hours of 'scratching around in the dirt' can do. I find it so relaxing and completely loose track of time when I am outside. However, it was not only in the garden that the weekend was productive...

... I also finish the 'White Carnations'. I am not quite sure if that is the name of this piece yet, but finish it I did. I didn't have a much left to do on this project but it still took me a bit by surprise how long even those tiny little things took to embroider.

The challenge of this project is not that it uses a lot of different techniques and tricky stitches - to the contrary, the challenge is in the simplicity. The design might look intricate but the stitches are really, really simply and sometimes simplicity is the most difficult - any little bit that is not right will stand out. 
I think it came up ok. 
It is times like this that I really wish I had a better camera and was much, much better at taking photos! This gives you an idea, but honestly - it doesn't do it justice. 

With new little plants filling in a few holes in the garden beds and a fresh piece of goldwork off the frame leaves me with that nice feeling completion and accomplishment. 
Ahhh, what next? - I think a rabbit is waiting.....

I hope you too had a lovely weekend.
Anna x

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shimmering metal

I picked up my goldwork tools today - it makes my work space look so serious when they are all piled up next to me.

Rest assured, it doesn't look this tidy for very long.
I had just a few leaves to finish on a larger piece that I need to have finished by the end of the month. And that is not so very far away! The project is for a class I will be teaching in Tasmania in August, so I need to get a move on.

I really enjoy working these solid areas of couching. There is something truly satisfying about the methodical couching and creating the even and firm surface of shimmering metal.

These leaves are not that big and to make sure the edges are really sharp and neat, I haven't turned the gold threads as I usually would but have cut both threads at either end. It works really well but results in an awful lot of ends to sink to the back...

I am certain I spent more time working on the wrong side, securing and trimming ends. The good news is I got all the solid leaves finished, so the rest will seem like a breeze - I think.

Happy stitching,
Anna x 

PS - If you wondered where my blog list has gone to (the one that shows My Favourite Blogs) the truth is that I have no idea. It just disappeared. Hopefully I can get it working again. All this tech stuff is not really my thing. I mean it is great when it works, but I have no idea how to fix glitches. Most annoying!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Brother Rabbit - ups and downs

Working a new design always has its ups and downs. I constantly doubt my decisions and choices. At times I will do the wise thing and stitch a small sample but most often just keep my fingers crossed that whatever idea or picture I have in my head will actually work... sometimes it is not even an idea of how I do something, just a vague idea of how I want the finished result to look.

The slip for the rabbits body looked tidy enough, but having finished stitching it, I still put off attaching it to the main design and starting the legs. How would this oval, camel coloured 'blob' ever end up looking anything like a rabbit?
And my idea of stitching the legs in raised stem stitch - would I be able to make it look as a whole and blend the stitching neatly? After a few deep breaths (a couple of days later), I picked up the needle yesterday and got started....

The body 'blob', was now a padded, domed blob and the raised stem stitch was exactly as tricky to get into place as I had expected. When the shapes are this raised, getting the needle to slide across the surface and only catching the little bit of thread that it needs to is not for the faint hearted. But one stitch at a time, and you get there in the end.

With the front leg done, my optimism returned - it looked as if it would turn out as I had envisaged. Yeah! Next: rear leg and thigh, same thing just bigger, right?

I am really happy with how it looks, but....

- no matter how careful I was and how hard I tired to avoid it, working the raised stem stitches over such high padding made it impossible not to constantly rub against the existing stitching - I should have known better!
From a distance it looks fine, but close up the stem below the rabbit and the lower edge of the leaf have gone all fluffy - the beautiful shine of the silk all worn. A super fine curved needle could perhaps have prevented it or I should have used my cling wrap trick (tacking cling wrap tightly over the completed areas), but by the time I discovered how bad it was getting it was already too late.

Now this is the point where, in a class situation, a student will look at me and with a hopeful expression and ask 'shall I unpick it?' and my answer will be 'that is up to you - but if you know it is the only thing you will see when it is finished - I think you should'.
So guess what I will be doing....

... gardening, I think! It is a beautiful day and I think I need a little break before making any hasty decisions.

Have a lovely weekend,
Anna x

PS ... and don't worry - the notes for 'the order of work' is already reversed, so if you plan to give this design a go, I have made this silly mistake so you won't have to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oh my....

... to my surprise, I just realised that today is my 100th post. It is hard to believe and I think it is time for me to let you in on a little secret.
When I started this, I was really, really unsure about it. I wasn't why I was doing it, or if I could think of anything to write about, or if I would be able to keep at it, or - the most scary part - if anyone would even be the least bit interested. I am hugely grateful to all of you who pop by from time to time and are kind enough to take an interest in my ramblings. You have helped make this little spot in cyberspace incredibly special to me.
It wasn't until I started to write this post that I realised that it is a bit of a milestone, so I haven't prepared anything special. All I can give is an enormous and heartfelt Thank You for being part of my stitching world.

As for the stitching....

It might not look like much but Brother Rabbit is coming along nicely and I have finished the four detached leaves. These are a little different to those I did for the Sweet Honeysuckle - see how the new leaves don't have the same distinct outline?

These new leaves, only have wire along  the  centre vein, unlike the honeysuckle leaves that were wired all the way around. Why? well mostly because trying to get really nice sharp points in the wire to create those lobed edges would be close to impossible to get neat.
I know that even though there is not wire along the edges - that by using a slightly heavier wire along the vain there will still be enough hold to shape the leaves away from the surface.

To get avoid the distinct edge, the satin stitch is worked into the purl edge of the blanket stitch outline - it making it look almost like a continues stitch. If  you want to see how they are done I have put a How To Here.

I have started embroidering the rabbit's body and am really keen to get that finished... so back to the needles for me.

Have a wonderful week,
Anna x

Detached leaf - soft edges

Detached Leaf ~ wire vein & soft edges.
There are so many ways to embroider detached leaves and petals in raised embroidery. The method I am using for the detached leaves on Brother Rabbit are wired along the centre vain only, which leaves the edges soft. I use a good quality, smooth and firmly woven, quilter's muslin or cotton homespun.

This is how ...

1. Outline the leaf in split stitch. These should be short and round.
    You can use split back stitch if you are finding it tricky to split the stitches from the back, but it will result
    in a slightly bulkier outline.
2. Centre vein. Cut a length of wire to fit the length of the vein + 2.5cm (1").
    I use a 24-gauge beading wire. It is thicker than what I would use for an outline, but the extra thickness         will provide sufficient stability to hold the leaf away from the surface.
3. To hold the wire in position, place couching stitches at small intervals down the length of it.
4. When you reach the base, cover the wire with overcast stitch, back to the top. Make sure the wire is
    completely covered by placing the stitches closely side by side, incorporating the couching stitches as you
    go. Try and angle your needle under the wire when you stitch - this will give the stitches a really nice, tight     fit over the wire.
HINT - to help preventing my threads from getting snagged on the end of the wire, I wrap a bit of tape around the end.

5. Blanket stitch outline. Secure the thread inside the leaf and stitch a detached chain over the outline very
    close to the base of the vein, but do not anchor the stitch.
6. Continue to cover the split stitch outline in very close blanket stitch. The split stitch should be completely
   For these leaves, I would anchor the blanket stitch at the point between two lobes and then restart at the  
   same point. This gives a sharper point, than if you stitch a continues row.

7. Padding. Fill each side of the leaf with long straight stitches for a light padding before the final layer is  
   worked. Place the stitches along the length of the leaf so that they are perpendicular to the layer that will be    stitched over the top.
8. Satin stitch filling. The satin stitch filling is worked in a way that hides the distinct edges of the blanket
   stitch outline. The stitches are placed at an angle across the shape to imitate the direction of leaf veins.
   To avoid creating a void, bring the needle to the front at an angle under the wired vein.
   Take the needle to the back over the covered split stitch, but INSIDE the purl edge of the blanket stitch.
   - that last bit sounds a lot trickier than it really is!

HINT - I always begin satin stitch midway along a shape - it makes it so much easier to get the correct stitch direction.

Happy Stitching,

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brother Rabbit WIP

The past week has been crazy busy, culminating with yesterdays harvest. After the madness, with people, tractors and trucks all over the place, today seems oddly and nicely quiet. I am not complaining.

In between it all I have managed to make some progress on Brother (Easter) Rabbit - or rather on his surroundings.

The large leaf is complete. This is the only one that will be stitches onto the main fabric - the rest are going to be done separately and attached later. These leaves are rather large and I am very aware that if I am not careful, they could easily become too dominant which is why the colours are toned in with the blue-grey silk ground rather than being bright greens.

The flower at the top right hand side kind of resembles a daffodil which to me, having grown up in Europe is very much an Easter flower. It still confuses me that it is not Easter when the daffodils are flowering here.
The main part of the flower is padded with layers of felt. My stitch choices, burden stitch for the petals and laid work over the padded part, are really more common in crewel work but the textures that they create work so well for what I wanted. The lattice tied down with very fine gold - I did try silk first, but even though the gold is very hard to see, it still worked much better.

Lastly, a lonely padded satin stitch petal for the other flower...
That's it - apart from Mr Rabbit's legs and tail, that is all that I am going to stitch directly onto the ground. 

I am getting stuck into the detached leaves today. I am going to try very hard to have this piece ready (and kitted?) in time for Easter - and really, that is not so very far away. 
Nothing quite like a deadline, even when it is self-imposed.

Happy stitching,
Anna x

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

...and the winners are

Thank you so very, very much to you all for the many lovely wishes for my Birthday on Sunday - Despite it being a super busy time for us, getting the vineyard ready for harvest, you make me feel like one very lucky and spoilt girl and I wish I could send every one of you a little something.

I really wish I didn't have to choose but with the help of True Random I did find winners for the two copies of 'Inspirations'. Congratulations Chrissie and Pat S. Please email your postal details to me so that I can get your magazines in the post.

I wish you all a wonderful week,
Anna x

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Give away time

If you have been following along for a while you might remember my Blanket Challenge a little while back.

I madly designed a stitched a wool embroidered blanket and never actually showed you the end result. Not because I didn't finish it...

 ...oh no, I was really happy with the end result, possibly my happiest blanket to date, but because... was whisked off to be photographed for Inspirations magazine - I know my little hand held happy-snappy simply does not compare. There is a funny story about this picture. See the plant with the red flowers in the back ground? Well the plant didn't actually have any flowers and was looking rather drab - so we (gently) raided a garden bed to put the red flowers in there for a bit of colour. It did the trick, don't you think? Then...

... when the image was chosen for cover - we had to photoshop them back out again - ah, the tricks of the trade and the joys of technology !

Issue 81 is out now and the good people at Inspirations have kindly given me a couple of extra issues - So it is GIVE AWAY time. Since it is my Birthday on Sunday and I love birthday wishes, all you have to do is send me a birthday wish in the comments and if you are lucky I will send you one of the two issues with a little special surprise. What could be easier?

I hope you have a fabulous Friday and can look forward to a nice and relaxing weekend.
Anna x

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Brother Rabbit

I dug out this old sketch a few weeks ago...

It has been almost a year since I drew it and ideas for how to stitch the piece have been simmering away at the back of my mind since then. With Easter not so very far away, I thought now would be the perfect time to find out if I can make those ideas work.
I was originally debating if I should work it in crewel or raised embroidery - It would work equally well in both, I think. But I am feeling most drawn towards a little fat rabbit with a fluffy white tail, so have settled on raised embroidery - or do you prefer the term stumpwork? I guess stumpwork is more widely used to describe pieces that involves raised, padded and detached elements, but I think I prefer the term raised embroidery... anyway, I am side-tracking.

Despite my sizable stash of threads, I was still short of just the right colours for the rabbit himself. Isn't that always the way? Knowing I will be working parts of the rabbit in needle lace and other raised stitches, I decided to order some shades of 'Stars' stranded silk from Gumnut Yarns. These are a little more firmly twisted, not as much a perle thread, than many other stranded silks, making them great to use for really fine needle lace.

I finally got thread to fabric this afternoon. Firstly the main stem was stitched in close rows of stem stitch, two at the either side and three across the base for extra width. The upper sections are wrapped closely and I covered the wider base with slightly spaced blanket stitch

Next, I wrapped the upper sections again, but this time spacing the wrapping and working in the opposite direction. It creates a candy stripe effect. Across the wider base, I worked blanket stitch again - one stitch in each gap from the last row.

I am slightly in love with this kind of blanket stitch filling at the moment. I first saw it used by Hazel Blomkamp in her Jacobean designs and just thought it was such a clever way to combine colour. Working the stitches over the padding gave me a lovely raised base for the rabbit to rest on.

The small scrolls, which will have little plump berries hanging from them, were given a similar treatment to the stems - whipped stem stitch, again using two different shades of thread.
The longer I stitch, the more I find myself layering and combining stitches to create changes in tones and texture. It always surprised me just how much a simple addition of a stitch can make to the overall look of a line.

And there, the stems are done - I think.. I might need to tweak a bit here and there, but it is hard to tell until some of the other parts of design starts to come together.
I am really, really hoping this week gives me more time to stitch than last week did - who knows, at this pace Mr Rabbit could perhaps be finished in time for Easter...

Have a happy week,
Anna x