Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lone Tree WIP

I have been quietly chipping away at the orange and ochre dunes...

... just a narrow strip remain and they will meet the sky.

I was a little concerned at one point that it would get too boring and bland with such a restricted colour palette. I am not worried any more.

I am oh so close, one side almost touches...

... the other nearly there too. I am in the middle of covering one of the last dunes with needle weaving - a single strand of cotton onto silk. The subtle but structured blending of shade sits nicely against the more 'random' shading of the variegated threads and I like the super smooth surface it creates.. but it is oh so fiddly to do, especially when I need to avoid catching the already stitched parts. Slowly does it...

Now the end is in sight, I am keen to get it finished. Not so much because I want to finish it but I am looking forward to seeing it finished - if that makes any sense. Besides, the 'doodles' and ideas for other things are mounting fast both in my note books and in my head.

Only a few more dunes and then.. the large blue sky.

Happy sunday
Anna X

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

At long last

I know the saying goes that 'all good things take time' but the time it has taken me to prepare my MEADOW BLOOM design as a kit is almost border lining on embarrassing.

But the KIT is finally in the SHOP and it feels good to have it completed and those who have waited to patiently on this one, at long last have the opportunity to stitch their own version of this design. It was such fun to do, with loads of different stitches.

The colour scheme for the MEADOW BLOOM design was inspired by a piece of beautiful fabric that a sweet friend once gave to me with a 'I am sure you can do something with that..' Isn't is stunning? 

I used it to make the finished embroidery into a rectangular cushion which was featured in issue 87 of INSPIRATIONS magazine. There is just enough left to cut JUST 5 PIECES, big enough to make more cushions like this one.
If you want to make a cushion and don't have a copy of INSPIRATIONS you can find the instructions on how the make the cushion on my website under FREE patterns & Projects. The instructions are perfect for making any square piece of embroidery into a decent size bolster style pillow.

Have a lovely week,
Anna X

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The point of the needle... very simply to draw thread through cloth.
When you look at the needle stand in some needlwork shops it would appear that choosing the 'right one' almost requires a some kind of degree. There are so many types and sizes to choose from, and to confuse things even further some are known by more than one name.
How do you know which to choose - or which to use for what, once all the needles in your kit have misplaced them selves from their carefully labelled positions on the needle card?

In some ways it is simply really: The job of a needle is draw thread through fabric, so it needs a hole (eye) at one end to hold the thread and a point at the other so that you can poke it through. In essence, that is all there is to it.

But choosing different needles for different jobs may at times make the stitching easier and help you get a better finish.
Often I will use one needle for everything in a project, because often one needle is suitable for everything I need to do, or I am just too engrossed in what I am doing (or too lazy) to get up and get a different needle.

When I do use several different needles for a project, I have a habit of parking them in a corner of the fabric so that they are right there, ready to go. Possibly not a good habit? I don't know, it works.

Does size matter?
Well I don't think many of us are comfortable going out for lunch wearing a shirt that is a couple of sizes too small or too large, so yes but don't get too hung up on numbers.
The size you use, should relate to the thickness of the thread you are using. For fairly obvious reasons, the thread needs to fit into the eye. The elongated eye in embroidery /crewel (same thing two names!) needles, tapestry needles and chenille needles make them easier to thread.
What I find more important to pay attention to is the thickness of the shaft. It should be the same size or slightly thicker than the thread you are using. That way the hole created by the needle as it is passed through your fabric is large enough for the thread to pass through.
Have you ever heard a little 'pop' every time you pulled your thread through? This happens when your needle is too fine - the pop is the sound of the doubled thread through the eye, 'popping' through your fabric and it wears your thread way too quickly.

If in doubt choose a larger, rather than a smaller needle. I was reminded of this when I mixed a fine metallic thread with a strand of silk it other day. The metal kept wearing and breaking in a no. 9 crewel (embroidery) needle, which is what I usually use for two strands. I had a no. 4 at hand, what I normally use for wool and it felt like a real 'crowbar' but not one broken or worn thread in sight.

Point or no point?
Point-less or blunt needles (tapestry) come in handy when you want your stitches to fall between the fabric threads (eg. counted work, drawn and cut thread work etc), or when you are whipping or weaving stitches around already existing stitches and you don't want to split them. (This is one of those instances where I am usually too laze to go and get a different needle so I simply pop on thimble and use the eye end of what-ever needle I am using)

Round eye or elongated eye?
As I mentioned, needles with elongated eyes are easier to thread, especially if you are stitching with several strands, but there are times when I prefer a needle with a round eye, such as if I am stitching with very fine metallic thread. Above, where the metal is blended with another thread, the elongated eye worked fine, but on its own I find a round eye holds the thread better and does not cause as much damage. Again, use a size that will prepare a decent size hole in your fabric for the thread to pass through... better bigger than too small.

I also use round eye needles (sharps) for the couching when I do metal thread embroidery and for the fine silks I use for Or Nue but for these purposes I do choose a really fine needle so that it will fit between and not distort the laid metal threads.

Special jobs
Another handy one to know is the milliner's (also straw) needle. It has a very long, thin shaft but the main point of difference is that the eye end is the same thickness as the shaft, making it the perfect choice for bullion knots and other wrapped stitches.
It is no secret that bullion knots are quite some way down on my 'favourite stitch' list... somewhere near the bottom in fact. I love the look of a well worked bullion, but they and I don't really get on that well. Our relationship is slightly improved when the milliner's needle steps in to mediate. It makes an enormous difference in fact.

In the corner of my Lone Tree project are four needles. A fine tapestry (probably a no. 24 or so) two fine crewel (embroidery) - I go through a lot of 8, 9 and 10s - and of course my 'crowbar' the no. 4 crewel. I hope to pick them up, if only for a few hours during the coming weekend.

I hope, this hasn't confused you completely - it is certainly not my intention. If in doubt, just use the needle you have at hand or the one you prefer, you will very soon know if it is doing the job. If not, try a different one. 
And honestly, one packet of mixed size crewel/embroidery needles will do almost everything you need to do.  

Have fun
Anna x 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Summer pleasures?

We got a little surprise when we got back from our mini break... We knew the dry spring and hot weather had made the vines think is was summer long before they should, but seeing grapes starting to turn colour this early is unheard of. It is not meant to happen for another week or two!.

There is only one thing to do - get ready to get the nets on before the parrots eat them all. Up row, down row, checking all is good to go.

Our vineyard may not be big, but certainly more than big enough when things have to happen fast. 

Our only helper is really not much help at all, but nice to have her company - and look, she is slowing growing in to those ears!

I hope you get to have a nice relaxing weekend.

Happy Friday,

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I will remember 2015...

... as the year that got away.

Just like the rest of the year before it, Christmas kind of snug up on me and before I knew it, it had been and gone. I hope you all had a lovely time with family and loved ones.

Not that neither Adrian or I really had time for a break, we did manage to get away to the house at the beach just for a few days. I cannot tell you how nice was to just sit and catch our breath, take Nala for long walks along the beach and of course...

... spending time with my feet up and doing just a little bit of stitching. This new piece has been sitting on my sketch pad for quite some time. It is really, really little, only a bit more than 5cm (2") across - so handy for sitting on the balcony, soaking up the sea air while the placing stitch after stitch with bright and beautiful silk.

I am not sure if it is just me, but it seems that every time I think I have all bases covered when it comes to bringing a selection of thread colours with me, I am always at least one short.

None of the greens I had proved right for the top of wing. So, even though I had intended to finish it before starting the next...

.. I felt I had no choice but to start the 'Sweethearts' that are to follow.

I have not made any resolutions for the 12 months ahead. Resolutions never really work for me, I just end up getting cranky with myself for not keeping them, or forgetting about them all together. But while sitting there quietly stitching I did think of the year ahead a little, and how quickly the past flew. It made me feel that I really need to catch up somehow.  I think I will just try and remember to hit the breaks from time to time and 'keep breathing' - and hopefully 2016 will be a year to remember.

What are your hopes, wishes or resolutions for the year ahead?

Anna X