Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New design

I never use purple...

...not as a primary colour for a design at least. It would seem one should never say never because when it came to choosing colours for a new little design it seemed like the only right colour to choose.

Some time ago I saw a lovely piece of fabric printed with scrolling vines in, yes you guessed it, purple and green. But it wasn't just any purple and green. It was that exactly perfect purple and green. Since then I have had this lingering and somewhat vague idea of 'something' in purple and green and I have been kicking myself that I didn't buy a piece of that fabric just as a colour reference. 

'Lauderdale', Jacobean Crewel Work  by Penelope

Then one day, I spotted another beautiful reference of a similar colour scheme that I love. It is a beautiful piece in 'Jacobean Crewel Work' by Penelope. I love this old book (early 1900). Have a look at the Smithsonian Libraries online version here - isn't it just fabulous?

So I ventured into purple, with a few splashes of aqua, just where would one be without aqua? Besides, those tiny bits of brightness seems to bring the best out in both the purple and the green and neatly tie the two colours together.

I am having a lovely time with this. As you may know, I love stitches - lots of different ones, but for this piece I am focusing on soft shading and satin stitch and it is really nice keep it simple for a change.

So why a new piece in the middle of this one? I am excited to have been invited back to teach at Pak-Ka-Pao House studio in Bangkok and the Hobbyist studio in Chiang Mei in April (hurray, we had such a great time last trip and it will be such fun to see everyone again). This little piece is what we will be doing this time so I better get back to the hoop.

Happy Stitching,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If only I could...

... I would make the trip to Europe in August to do some of the workshops at the Bath Textile Summer School.

Held from August 17th to the 22nd at the Holburne Museum and the Bath Literary and Scientific Institute, the beautiful venues and surroundings alone would be worth the trip.

'Boat' Sue Dove
In 'the land of make believe', I imagine doing the Artwork for Textile workshop with with Sue Dove. I have her book 'Painting with Stitches' and the way she interprets colour in stitch is really intriguing. Spending a couple of days in her company, ripping paper and playing with crayons before interpreting my so called 'art' in stitches sounds like so much fun.
Beadwork by Heather Kingsley-Heath

Or, I would do something completely different...

I would learn the intricate techniques of traditional Beadwork Embroidery with Heather Kingsley-Heath. I confess, I did bead embroidery for a living for a couple of years and I have not had the inclination to use beads much since, but this bronze coloured pod of peas really caught my eye - how do you do that?

The Holburne Museum recently acquired the most beautiful beadwork basket. The work is amazing, just have a look at the close-up picture on the Bath Summer School website. During the 2 day workshop you learn many of the techniques used - now that would be something.

Beadwork basket (46 x 33 x 13 cm)English Glass, coral and wooden beads, lampwork, fine wire. Ca. 1670. Holburne Museum. 

After that, for something completely different and to really step out of my comfort zone, I would definitely do Jo Lovelock's  Poetry of decay and learn to see things in a different perspective. At first glance this doesn't look very pretty or embroidery-like but the idea of seeing things not traditionally appreciated for embroidery in a different light really appeals to me. Have you ever looked at rust for instance? I mean, really looked. The patterns and colours are amazing. Imagine interpreting that - or an old discarded tin can in stitches. Somehow.

But that is all in 'the land of make believe' - I can only dream of going. If you are lucky enough to be able to go, you will need to book soon as some classes have already booked out and others are close to.
As for me, I guess I will wish for a new piggy bank for Christmas and start saving. Perhaps next year.

Happy Stitching,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I am inspired...

...by Marianne Burr
'Cotton Candy' (detail) by Marianne Burr, 2013

Those colours, oh those colours! - and shapes! - and layers! - and textures! How can you not fall in love with these magnificent art quilts?
'Thru the Lens' by Marianne Burr, 2013
When I first came across this extraordinary pieces on Pinterest I had to look twice. At first glance I was unsure what these intense but at the same time soft, beautiful and sometimes almost translucent coloured shapes were; watercolour? or glass perhaps...? 
'Theo's Garden' 20008
...but no, these beauties are made from hand painted silk with layers of hand appliqué and embroidery! Aren't they amazing?

'Berry Trifle' (detail) by Marianne Burr

"My work is a joyful enterprise"  is the first words on Marianne's web page - and isn't that just so evident in her work? I do urge you to browse through her portfolios, it is real eye candy, wholesome food for the soul. 
I am always curious as to how artists work, that 'what is your process' question - how does these beautiful things come to be, how do they appear? 
"I start with a line drawing of the shapes.  The colours are created by mixing my liquid silk dyes. The colours are spontaneous; I try them out on a separate small piece of stretched silk before I add them to the piece.  I am brave with the colours because I can always use another piece of appliquéd silk to change anything I want.   
For me, one of the special aspects of the process and a reason I enjoy myself so much is that when I add all the stitching the colour of the ground is changed, sometimes dramatically."

I too, start my work with not much more than a line drawing and a rough idea in my mind about colours and textures. It is so nice to know I am not alone in starting things without having all the fine details planned out in advance and finding myself (mostly) happily surprised watching my work change and take shape under the needle.

I am pretty sure I will ever grow tired of looking at these. Those colours, those ever so beautiful, colours...

Hope your week is beautiful and colourful,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blanket stitch leaves - part two

If you missed part one of this little sampler you can find it HERE.

It really is surprising how different blanket stitch looks when the stitches a placed really close together so that they cover the fabric. You may often see it referred to as 'Buttonhole' stitch when it is used in this way, but to my mind the stitch remains the same, only the positioning has changed. We don't tend to change the name of other stitched if we simply adjust the stitch width or length which is why I refer to it as blanket stitch in both cases. To me a buttonhole stitch is a 'proper' tailor's buttonhole stitch which has a little knot on the edge for extra strength - but that is another story...

Back to the leaves.
As with the top two leaves the stitches are here placed so that the purl edges fall along the sides of the leaf. Just like before, each side is worked from the base towards the tip and the stitches are angled towards the base to reflect the veins of the leaf.

To finish off, a fine line of stem stitch (or other line stitch) is worked down the centre vein. This is a great way to fill leaves if you need a change from satin stitch and you get the added benefit of those neat edges.

If you run out of thread along the way - and you will - you can find a tip on how to Join a new thread HERE.

Another way to fill the leaf (or petal) completely is stagger the length of blanket stitches along the edges so that it becomes long and short blanket stitch - again each side from the base to the tip.
You then change the shade and stitch the remainder in long and short stitch, splitting the end of the stitched in the first row so that the new stitches become an extension of the previous.
Finished with a fine centre vein and you have a beautiful shaded leaf.

I thought, I would see what happens if I placed the purl edge of the stitches along the centre vein instead - one mistake was to start at the base. It was really hard to get the angle of the stitches correct and the edges neat - but remember this is a sampler..

When stitching the remaining side, I started at the point - so much easier. The purl edges of the two sides meet along the centre and form a nice ridge.
I like the idea, I think. The outer edges could be neatened with another stitch or perhaps have a row of split stitch underneath to give them more definition.

For long, skinny leaves the blanket stitches can be placed across the full width. This is the type of leaf that sparked this whole little experiment. To be honest, I had not used the stitch this way before, but it certainly won't be the last. To neaten one edge, I place a row of split stitch underneath then work the blanket stitch over the top so that the purl edge is at the opposite side.

So this is how my little Blanket Stitch Tree turned out.

That was really good fun to play with just one stitch - have you started your?

Happy Stitching,

Friday, December 5, 2014

Blanket stitch leaves - part one

I am really glad (and a little overwhelmed) by the many comments on my blanket stitch leaves the other day - I also found it very inspiring, so I sat down and stitched a tree. Blanket stitch is such a versatile stitch and I use it all the time, more and more in fact. Maybe you will feel inspired too.

I scribbled this little tree of leaves straight onto the fabric and you could easily do the same. If you don't feel like drawing your own leaves, you can download the pattern here FREE PATTERN DOWNLOAD.

The top two leaves are stitched in an Open Blanket stitch where the 'purl' edge of the stitches is placed along the outer edges. I start these from the base and the angle of the stitches naturally form the ribs or veins of the leaf. When I stitch the second side, I place the stitches into the same holes along the centre vein.
When I teach, I often find that many only ever work blanket stitch in one direction (left to right, or right to left). If that is you, it might take a bit of getting used to, to stitch it both ways but it is well worth the effort and you will get so much neater points and evenly slanted stitches.

I did one leaf two strands - the other with three. Adjusting the weight of your thread and the spacing of the stitches will change the appearance of the leaf - something to play with...
Then, if you stitch with the purl edge along the centre vein, the leaf ends up quite differently. These are best to stitch from the top to the base. The second side is done the same way - and you end up with a neat rib down the middle. I used a line of stem stitch to neaten the edges.


You can finish the centre line of the other two leaves with a line of stem stitch or perhaps chain down the middle.

These Open Blanket stitch leaves are so quick - and rather effective really. I like that they don't cover the fabric completely, it adds a nice dimension to the design.

I did finish my little tree this evening, but the light was fading and the pictures taken inside under the lamp are shocking to say the least - so you will have to wait for the rest of my tree - Sorry.

Until then - Happy stitching,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dahlia - new kit

I did finish the rest of the embroidery for the new design last week. 

It really was very, very quick to embroider and all I had left to do on the weekend was to put it all together...
(Sorry about the dark and somewhat grainy looking photo above - As you may have noticed, my work table is darkish timber and I didn't think to put light card under the fabric before photographing it! Note to self: Always, always, always put fabric on light coloured background - gosh, I really should know this by now!!)
As I was saying...

...all I had to do was put it all together. The pin cushion was easy, but the scissor sheath took a wee bit longer than expected. It is not difficult, just a fiddly and stitching the many layers together becomes quite tight towards the end. Despite wearing a thimble while neatening the edges, I managed to prick my finger. Why is it than when you prick your finger the blood stain always end up on the most notable part? (on the all light part above the embroidery).

 Spot successfully removed (photoshop or cleaned, I wonder...?).

I use knotted pearl stitch for the edges - it is a brilliant stitch for that purpose and it always surprises me just how well it tidies up seams and edges. Believe me the edges of the scissor sheath are not at all perfect underneath. The stitch is also knows as reverse Palestrina stitch and it is not at all as difficult to stitch as it may look. I have put the instructions for how to do it on a PDF here if you want to give it a go.

So here they are the Dahlia pin cushion and scissor sheath. I really love these pieces and I am still a little puzzled as to how they came to be via a Christmas stocking - but there you go. Stitching works in mysterious ways...
The instructions are as good as done, supplies are on order and I will have kits in the SHOP by the end of the week. 

Now about the shop: Since I have been severely slack and didn't get my act together to do a Christmas project for you, I have FREE SHIPPING during December instead. All you need is to enter the coupon code XMAS14 at the check out.

Enjoy your week.