Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy Holidays...

I finished the pinks.

I was determined to finish the stitching before Christmas and the last few stitches went in only a few minutes ago... about the time it takes to snap a few pictures.
There was a bit of 'reverse stitching' involved towards the end but I am really, really happy with how this turned out.

The left hand flower spray is stitched to mirror the one on the lower left, only the choice of stitches vary. 

The pair of leaves in the middle were next. It took a little bit of experimentation, but the end result was worth a bit of restitching. 

I was happy with the way the double blanket stitch worked for one half of the leaf, but had at first stitched the other side with blanket stitch veins and knots (French or colonial, I can't remember).

Looking at it, I felt it had ended up looking too busy, so I ripped that out and filled it with satin stitch instead. I like these and I am pretty sure I will be using this stitch combination for future projects

The last thing to finish was the right hand flower - the one that is paisley shaped.
I had a pretty good idea of what to do about the flower itself. Satin stitch for the 'seedpods', grading from light to dark pink. I wanted a really smooth look for the band along the left hand side and ended up with close rows of stem stitch. I worked a small trellis for the curled under tip and added seed stitch around the seed pods. I now have seed stitch in all three flowers, which makes a nice visual similarity between the three. 
Then came the leaves... ???

... I really wasn't sure how to go about them. I had drawn them up as more 'solid' shapes, with no detail other than the wide centre vein. At first I started filling them in with long and short stitch, thinking it might be nice to grade the shades but it just didn't look right. 
The I remembered that the leaves on my Purple Grace were similar, lobed shapes to I embroidered these ones in a similar way. It works. Dainty and pretty. 
I guess there is no need to reinvent the wheel if something works, LOL.

So, really it was finished, except...

... the keen observer would have noticed a change since I last showed you the project. The blue is gone.
With everything else complete, the teeny, weeny bit of turquoise suddenly looked out of place. I have restitched that in other colour; dark pink for the three little leaves and a soft green along the stem. 

I really didn't expect to finish this piece before Christmas, and it is really nice to have it done. The notes are well under way, so I am planning to have it available as a kit early in the new year. I will be calling it SWEET REPOSE.. What do you think? 

For now, I am going to have a little break. I have decided to take a bit of time out, between Christmas and New Year (shock, horror) - I might stitch if I feel like it, and I may not.. 

Thank you so much for your support and interest in what I stitch, and for your comments and encouragement along the way. It really means a lot!!!

For now, I wish you all a happy and hopefully relaxed Holiday Season, in company of family and friends. If you travel - stay safe.

Best Stitches 
Anna XX

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Crewel & Colour, Pinks - Work in Progress

I feel as it has been a week of 4 stitches ahead, 2 stitches back....

After happily doodling way making Christmas trees last week I got back to my current crewel project. In some ways, I think the Christmas trees was a little escape, or a way of procrastinating because I still felt so undecided on the colour scheme for this piece.
Colour is such a personal thing and I think we all find some colours come more natural and are easier to work with than others.

I was torn between a palette of teal, burnt orange/coral and green - My Colours.. a colour scheme I am really comfortable with.
But having originally photographed the line drawing with a 'colour wheel' of bright colours around it, I was toying with the idea of embroidering it in more 'summery', cheerful colours and I do think the flowery design lends itself to something a bit more pretty and 'girly'.

Now I said in my last post about this project that I wouldn't be showing colours because of an upcoming class.. well that looks unlikely to go ahead so I will show you what I am up to.

Hint - How I Choose my colours
I usually start out by trying to decide on a main colour scheme consisting of Three colour families: two complimentary families (close together on your colour wheel) and one contrasting (opposite side of the colour wheel).
For example: Teal and green are the complementary shades with orange/coral the contrast. The beauty of Appleton's crewel wool is that each colour family comes in up to seven shades, so once you have your main colours, it is fairly straight forward to pick the shades on either side.
As well has that, I think of Tonal Value - how bright or muted they are and keep them relatively similar.
3) To that mix I will often throw in a 'Ping' colour, which I use very, very sparingly (the turquoise in the picture below)
4) In most cases, especially if I have a palette of quite strong shades (which I tend to do) I will also add a 'Nothing' colour, such a beige, dull brown or green. This helps to stop all the strong colours competing and tie the design together.

After 'playing around' with yellows, oranges, reds and pinks, I ended with this:

Green and Yellow as my complimentary colours and Pink as the contrast, a wee bit of turquoise as the 'ping' colour (not sure I will need it, there is enough 'ping' in those yellows and pinks to start a fireworks) and a beige/yellow to possible tone it all down just a notch.

HELP!! - how did that even happen?? - This is so NOT colours I usually work with and I am so NOT a pink girl. The thought of embroidering a pink piece of crewel work is rather daunting.. and challenging. At the same time, the colours feel right for this piece and I must confess I like a challenge. Besides, what is the worst thing that can happen? If I don't like it, I can rip it out and start again. So - pink here we go.

I started with some of the main stems, since that was relatively straight forward colour wise. The first flower started to emerge, and I am really not sure about those colours... Especially the real candy pink.

While pondering that I stitched some smaller details that I felt a wee bit more confident about.

 Back to the first flower, adding in a bit of yellow. It is cheerful, bright, too bright?

Persevering with my pink yarns, I moved on to another flower. The outer petals came naturally but those near the base caused me a wee bit of grief. Again the candy pink, is just too pink???

I thought that if perhaps I stitched the middle petal in a slightly different colour combo, omitting the candy pink, it would tone it down a bit and make it gel better...

No, it looked awful! I didn't quite know right away what to do to fix it so I left it there for the time being. It wasn't until more of the flower centre came together that I ripped the yellow out and used the same lightest pink as on the side petals - only the centre varies slightly now.

So after a week of 4 stitches forward and 2 stitches back, it is looking ok... I think. The top flower has come together nicely at the end but I am still not happy withe first flower and I am still not comfortable with the colours, or rather, I really have to think about it.

I hope the progress in the coming week will feel a little more smooth.

Have a lovely, stitchy weekend,
Anan XX

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Christmas trees - FREE Pattern

Happy start of December to everyone!
I don't know about you, but to me this last month of the year has a nasty habit of sneaking up on me and I find myself completely surprised it is 'that time of year' again already. But last week I found myself stitching Christmas decorations.

I suddenly had the idea for a couple of new Christmas ornaments and I figure you have to do these things when inspiration hits you, Right?. Besides, I haven't made any since I did Starry Night (and that was much longer than I thought) so it was about time.

I drew up a simple Christmas tree shape, scattered some dots over it, grabbed some of my favourite coloured threads (yes, blues) and started stitching Starbursts

Each starburst is a group of pistil stitches, worked from the centre out. First 6 longish (10-12mm) then shorter ones between.
To brighten it up a bit, I added crisp white straight stitches between the pistil stitches - for more bling, you could use silver or gold, but I kind of like the more subtle highlight of white against the linen.
I bead in the middle and BINGO you have a starburst...

Of course, as always, my mind makes up new ideas while I stitch...
        ... how about a bauble??

So same tree, same dots, only for the baubles, I drew a small circle around each dot (about 8mm in diameter. Then set to work make whipped back stitch spots.

For this size spot, I used two strands of cotton and eight spokes for the whipping. They still ended up not quite covering the marked lines, so I added a fine white outline and used the same thread to stitch a 'hanging loop' and bow at the top.
A sparkly bead in the middle, and there's a bauble.

I just love the texture of whipped back stitch (or whipped spider's web).
So my trees were ready to be put together, only it would be nice to have something on the back...

... I used the wording from the Starry Night ornaments. I really don't like doing the same thing twice, so while embroidering this one, I wondered if the second would look pretty just with scattered beads.
I used the same clear beads but stitched them on with bright blue thread for a bit of colour. They still looked a bit sparse... so I decided to add some French knots around each and so ended up with pretty snowflakes...

... Snowflakes way too pretty to go on the back!
I now had three pretty fronts so found some fabric in my stash to go on the back of two of them.

The original plan had been to make another set of Christmas tree ornaments to go on my big tree but instead I decided to make them into 'real' trees. After sewing them up, and partially filling them, I added sticks from the garden for trunks before finishing each with beads around the edges...

I was going to go to the craft store and get some tiny terracotta pots and air-drying clay to sit them in, but I think I rather like them growing amongst my succulents...

I know this is a busy time of year for everyone, but I have added the pattern HERE if anyone would like to make one or two... and they really don't take long.

Happy December, Happy Sunday
Anna XX

Sunday, November 25, 2018

All done...

... and nowhere to go.

I always keep a small stash of inexpensive, ready-made frames, so I have something to put my small pieces of embroidery into as soon as they are finished. I was so certain, I had a square frame that would be perfect for my little 'doodle' piece, that I didn't even stop to check - Big sigh, Big mistake!
As I mentioned last week, I am already late getting it to my brother for his birthday (no, he doesn't read my blog) and I really, really wanted to get it in the post before the weekend. I can still only stitch (and work on the computer) in short bursts of time, so Wednesday, I set my trusty egg timer and set to work adding the final details to the piece.

Some of you may have seen the progress of this small piece on facebook and Instagram, but I have just realised that I have not shared anything here until the picture last week. So, to start at the beginning - well kind of and in short:

I no longer take anything complicated with me when I travel - instead, I grab (literally last minute with one foot out the door) a handful of threads, a scrap of fabric, a needle and a small hoop and shove it into a small bag. Once on my way, I fill a small square with a 'doodle' drawing and spend my time away just filling in. I find it relaxing on the plane or after a day of stitching, to just stitch whatever I feel like without having to think about it too hard. It is all just playing with colours, stitches and textures while filling in shapes.

The interesting thing is, the pieces very quickly start to reflect the place I am in or where I am going and this one is not different. I was visiting my brother and we were enjoying a glass of wine and the view from his backyard, which backs right down to the edge of the water. After a long and unusually hot summer, the garden and the hills on the other side of water were dry and parched and it occurred to me that the small pile of threads I had thrown in my bag before I left Australia, were exactly (almost) the shades of water, the sky, the dry lawn and scrubs, and the hills in the distance. So, I decided I would give this piece to my brother once finished.

I just let the piece grow how it wanted to and as so often before discovered new stitches and ways to fill shapes on the way. Like the area below the yellow spiral - it is filled with pistil stitches of varying lengths so the knots fall randomly across the shape. The only plan I really had was that I wanted to add a bit of silver once the coloured embroidery was finished, so I left narrow gaps along some lines were the metal thread would go later on.

I chose two weights for silver couching thread and couched the heavier one (Jap T69) across the full width of the piece. It slotted neatly into the narrow gap I had left earlier.

The finer thread, went along each of the swirls.

And there, all done... and no frame to put it.

Lyndby 2018
Oh well, there is always tomorrow.
With this piece finished, I can move (swiftly) on to the next. Finalising colours for my new crewel project??.... getting started on the juggling jester???... and I really want to stitch some little Christmas trees???...
Whatever I start, it is undoubtedly going to be a busy week ahead.

I started today taking Tilly for a fabulous long walk 'around the block' in our neighbourhood and now that my trusty timer has beeped (more than once) I will turn off the computer, I enjoy the afternoon outside...

I hope you enjoying a lovely and relaxing weekend and to those celebrating Thanksgiving, I wish you a happy and safe holiday with family and friends.

Best Stitches,
Anna xx

Monday, November 19, 2018

It's a Juggle

Firstly - thank you so much for all the lovely and heart warming messages you have sent me. I am quite certain they have helped me recover.

I have a terrible habit of getting side tracked!!
A few months ago, while I was in the middle of packing class kits, I suddenly had an idea for a new raised embroidery figure and just had to sit down and draw this little fellow.

Despite being super busy preparing for Beating Around the Bush, I had managed to get the design ready. I started by resizing the sketch. It didn't need much but I want it to match the size of 'Over the Hills' and 'Drifting on the Breeze' so I had to scale the sketch down just a bit.

Over the Hills

Drifting on the Breeze

Since the clothing will be embroidered separately I then had to 'undress' the poor jester so that only the lines for the background and the position of his body will be transferred onto the main fabric.

I prefer not mark any design lines on the silk for my little people, so you will notice the main design is transferred as a mirror image to the back of the backing fabric below.

I then layer the backing fabric (calico or quilter's muslin) and background fabric (very pale yellow silk) and mount them onto my frame, nice and taut.
Once that is done, I work from the back, tacking along the design lines using a fine sewing thread the same colour as the silk. This transfers the lines to the front.

That was as far as I got. I was really, really looking forward to getting stuck into it....
then things got crazy and my neck and back gave way...
.... and not much has happened since. I have been absolutely itching to get back to it.

The good news is: I am finally feeling much better and am daring to start stitching again, YEAH!!!!
Before I can indulge in this piece I must finish another, very, very different project...

...a little piece of 'doodle stitching' (10 x 10cm / 4 x 4"). It was meant for my brother's big birthday in early November, but thanks to my back it is not finished... just as well he is not accustomed to getting cards and presents on time.

Happy Monday Stitches,
Anna X

Friday, November 2, 2018

Crewel & Colour

I have been out of action for almost 4 weeks now - needless to say; it is driving me crazy!!!
One thing is being too unwell to go to work, but being too unwell to do anything around home is just horrible, right?!

Anyway, I dosed up on painkillers this morning to just play with some yarn colours for a new crewel embroidery design. It is for one of my two workshops at The Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia's Summer School in January so I really kind of need to get moving.
In most workshops, the design is all planned out, colours and all but for this one the participants will be working using their own colour palette. I did a similar workshop for the Guild years ago using Jacobean Leaves and it was awesome to see the many beautiful variations of  colours people came up with and how it changed and personalised the design.

I know from experience that once I show my colour choices it makes for some people to visualise their own, so this post will be the only one where I share pictures in colour. 
I still need to stitch my version, to work out stitches and colour distribution, so I do have some decisions to make because I am not going to stitch this in all the colours of the rainbow as the first picture show (could be kind of fun but it is not big enough - LOL).

Laying in bed (which I sadly do a lot of lately), I suddenly had the idea that stitching the new design in my favourite colours teal and coral would work well. The colour scheme would be somewhat similar to the TULIPA bird, but in reverse - much more teal and less coral/orange and more teal.

Dusky blue-greens and terracotta is a somewhat traditional colour scheme often used for crewel embroidery. I find that if I choose shades of blue and reds with less black in them, I get a slightly more contemporary result. I liked the colours when I laid out the bundles to get a rough idea of the palette but then again...????

Looking at the original picture with the colour wheel it might be fun to do something really bright and chirpy... like my woollen Spring Sonnet blanket from Inspirations issue 68 (the pattern is available HERE).

It could be fun to do something really bright and fresh and summery...

While I ponder and decide on my colour scheme (I might well end up with something completely different) I thought, I could at least make a start by getting the pattern transferred and the fabric framed up. One flower, one stem...

... that is as far as I got before my body tells me that is enough bending over for now. Better than nothing, isn't it. At least I have made a start and it feels SOOOO much better having had a bit of yarn in my hands even it is only for a very short while.

Best stitches,
Anna X

Monday, October 22, 2018

😐 Out of Action 😐

First of all - do you remember the Blue Birds?

After leaving my frame, they flew back to Nicola Jarvis, were mounted into in beautiful pillow and then toured the UK as part of Nicola's 'Art of Embroidery' exhibition.
About 6 months ago, Nicola contacted me to say she would be bringing the pillow back for me when she was coming to Adelaide for Beating Around the Bush in October. Now that was a surprise. When I originally embroidered the piece it never for a moment occurred to me that I would be getting the pillow back once the birdies had finished fluttering around on show!

I love to embroider, but I have very little embroidery on show in my house. Once I finish something, it usually ends up in a cupboard or drawer, only to be brought out when needed for classes. This is such a pretty design, so I thought it would be a shame for it not to be on show. Instead of having it returned to me, I suggested it be auctioned off at the Beating Around the Bush Gala Dinner and the proceeds go to charity. That way the cushion was sure to go to a good home where it would be treasured and funds raised go to a good cause.
I want to sincerely thank the bidder who is now providing a loving home for the Blue Bird pillow and by that enabling us to forward a very generous donation to The Smith Family. Sadly (due to what comes next...) I was not able to be at the Gala Dinner to thank you in person.

The Smith Family is a children's charity helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

With teaching trips to Thailand and Europe, followed by Beating Around the Bush here in Adelaide in early October, I have been rather busy for the past few months . All of it was fabulous, I love teaching, I love meeting people from all over the place, but I was also starting to look forward to a  bit of 'time-out'.
One of the best ways for me to unwind is to go bush and we had planned a driving trip to the Gawler Ranges - well, things didn't quite go to plan.
Midway through Beating Around the Bush, my back/neck gave in. At first I thought I had just pulled or strained a muscle or something like that, but it turns out I did a really good job of it this time!
Verdict: herniated disc in my neck. Result: pain, numb fingers, more pain, sore arm, more pain, no stitching! (what!!!), more pain, no computer.. (well, minimal)

In short it is a Pain In The Neck in more ways than one and not exactly the kind of Time-Out I had been looking forward to!!!!
For now it is rest, wait and see. I will be getting a steroid injection into my neck this coming Friday and fingers crossed it will help. After that it is still a case of taking it easy, letting it heal, and lots of therapy. I will be looking at getting back into exercise to strengthen the muscles so it doesn't happen again... for goodness me, I have never been in so much pain!

Until then, the projects I was looking forward to stitch:

... a new crewel design for the SA Embroiderer's Guild summer school in January, and

..this little fellow: 'It's a Juggle' will be my next stumpwork little person.
It seems like forever since I last stitched a little person, and I am more than itching to embroider this one. - but for now
I am out of Action...!

Best Stitches,
Anna xx