Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Back from the outback

 oh what a great break!

We saw some incredible places and had an amazing time - I don't think I realized just how much I needed to get away until now that I am back. We have stacks and stacks of photos, and before getting back down to embroidery business, I really want to share just a few snapshots of what we got up while on the road for the past 3 weeks.

We drove... A LOT. Well, I didn't drive.. Adrian likes driving, while I am more than content to just sit back and enjoy the ride 😀

The 'main drag' up the centre is long (very long), flat and very straight. We joked that we could probably just tie the steering wheel in place and both take nap. The aim was to just 'leg it' the 2700km (1678 miles) from Adelaide to Katherine in just a couple of days, which we almost managed. 
As soon as we reached the 'Top End' we slowed down...

I have lost count of how many waterfalls we visited (not all flowing this time of year) and how many rockpools we swam in. LOTS - for well more than a week we went on a rockpool crawl, moving from one amazing spot to the next every day. 

The water in the rockpools was a clear as can be, with fish swimming around you and nibbling at your toes. In one pool, we had company of a small water monitor. She? looks massive in the photo, but really was only about 50cm (20") long.

It was too hot for long hikes, but between swimming in those incredible natural pools, we did quite a few really beautiful walks.
The landscape is vast (enormously vast). I know that for some people the vastness makes them uncomfortable. I LOVE it. There is something so special about being out in the middle our 'nowhere' feeling very, very small and insignificant that for me, puts everything into perspective.

Apart from Jim Jim Falls, which was the most spectacular rockpool of them all, there was less swimming once we got to Kakadu National Park. Partly because there is less rockpools but mostly because where there is water there is crocodiles. Big ones!
The landscape, with majestic rock formations and ancient rock art was breathtaking.

Nothing here is subtle. Everything is big. The land is vast. The heat is hot. The sun is fierce (and so are the mosquitos). The water is murky and full of crocodiles. The rock is as old and solid, as old and solid can be, and makes you feel like a little insignificant ant (well, ants are important but you get the picture).

I have seen plenty of pictures of Aboriginal Rock Art, but standing in front of a rockface filled with paintings, some of which are dating back more than 20,000 years, is truly humbling. 

I never stops to amaze me, just how much wildlife there is in these arid areas. In Kakadu, the birdlife is abundant especially along the rivers. We were lucky to see dancing brolga, kites, sea eagles, numerous types of ducks and geese, king fishers and kookaburras, Jaribu storks and egrets.. the list goes on.

A family of blue-winged kookaburra hung around our camp one day. They can't 'laugh' like their southern cousins here, but they are ever so colorful. This guy was so tame, just short of eating from our hands. 

We had more close encounters a the Territory Wildlife Park just south of Darwin. I never knew there was such a thing as freshwater sting rays and hand feeding these creatures was fabulous. The highlight though was to meet Quirky the Northern Quoll (sorry about the fuzzy photo, but these guys are NEVER still). 

So many adventures in such a short time... Did I stitch?

...not much. I had roughed up a piece of 'doodle stitching' as I often do when I am away but I didn't get far. Never mind.. I guess, we will just have to go on another trip so I can work on it...

I hope you have all been keeping well and safe, despite crazy weather around the place and the never ending turmoil of the pandemic.

Stay safe & keep stitching,
Anna xx

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Time Out...

... just a little, quick note to let you know that I am having a wee break to recharge the batteries.

I know many think of Australia as hot and full of red dust.. well, there is some of that around, but where we live the winter is cold. I don't like cold, so we are heading north for some warmer weather and a different view for a bit. 

will be closed from Wednesday, 26 August. 
Please make sure you get your order in before that if you need anything to keep your hands busy. 

I don't think, I will be posting while I am away, but I will be in touch as soon as I am back on deck. 

Take care every one. 
Stay Safe & Keep Stitching
Anna XOX 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Changing projects

Not as much stitching has been happening around here as I would like but I managed to sneak in a couple of hours yesterday and picked up the crewel piece I am also working on.

I always prefer to work on colour selections during the day and with this grey scale it is even more important as the tones of the grey yarns change completely at night.

The sprig of small daisies was relatively straight forward (and very relaxing). The little leaves are fishbone stitch, satin stitch petals and colonial knot centers. It surprised me how 'pink' the palest grey tone looked when used for the center in the lighter daisies.

Then I moved on to the group of heart-shaped flowers/fruit inside the main scroll. I knew, I wanted closely packed knots for the fruit and Cretan stitch for the sepals, but this time the colour combinations were a little more challenging to get right. At first, when holding the grey yarns against the design - they looked way too.. well, grey. So I first stitched the sepals in the same light green as the daisy leaves. It looked completely wrong. Then I tried a grey-green, which looked fine - until I had finished the knots and then that too looked out of place. I 'reverse stitched' it again and went back to the original greys. Goodness, colours and tones can be fickle but I think it works. 

The fruit are all embroidered in the same way, but I used two colour variations to add a bit of interested. 

I find when working with repeated elements, such as groups of flowers or leaves, that if you change both colour and stitch combinations, the design can easily end up looking too busy. Where as if you vary just one or the other it adds interest while the overall design remain balanced. 

The fruit is filled with closely packed French knots. These have 2-wraps, which I don't do often but one wrap was too little, Colonial knots too big and stitching with 2 strands of yarn, too bulky. The sepals are Cretan stitch. This is quite possibly one of my favorite stitches for small - medium size leaves. Mostly because, I just love the little plait it creates along the centre. Considering it is one of my favorite stitches, I was surprised to discover, I haven't yet shared a little step-by-step... I will need to do that, I think. 

This is how it looks now and I can work on the mirror set of daises and fruit (perhaps they are apples?) during the evening if I manage to steal a few minutes. There is one 'mistake' here.... can you spot it?

... I have stitched the elements on the right hand side first - really silly when I am right handed! I am pretty good at not resting my hands on the work while I embroiderer but I will need to cover it while I stitch the others so I don't rub my hand and arm over it all the time. 

You may remember, I had said, I really needed the Jester done by the end of the month, but I had to put him aside this week.

I am wanting to create a hat that looks a little like a cross between a crown and a jester's hat. The couple of attempts I have made were so bad, I didn't even bother with a photo. What I have learned (about myself) is that if it doesn't work after a couple of tries, put it aside for a bit and give it another go later. More often than not, a solution to whatever the problem may be (and I think it partly was the thread I was using) will turn up. At least he is looking pretty happy - hat or not hat.

The new website is taking up more time than I thought it would (no, not really, I knew it would be a bit of a headache) but I am getting there. I promise we will have a big party of sorts when it all done. 

Have a lovely and safe week everyone,


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Dressing up

I am making some progress on my Jolly Juggling Jester.

This week he got dressed. 
I am stitching his jacket as little needle lace pieces, one piece each for the sleeves, and jacket fronts. I had originally pictured the jacket to in brighter colours, but no matter what combinations I tried, it just didn't work. In the end I have used a slightly shaded silk (Gumnut Yarns 'Stars') in a camel/mushroom colour with vertical stripes in rust. It is colourful, but not bright and, I think, settles the bright red pants and yellow ground a bit.

I forgot to take pictures while stitching the first pieces (sorry), but here is one of the last jacket front in the making. The pin is there, just for size. All the jacket pieces are stitched in corded detached blanket stitch onto to a temporary ground. You can see where the right hand piece was done. I use a very stiff vilene (buckram) then place my pattern onto that and hold it in place with adhesive plastic. This gives me a good ground for attaching the cordonnet (the outline) which holds the shape of the needle lace.

The picture above better shows how the pieces are layered before the last jacket piece was stitched in place. First the sleeves and then the jacket front over the top. I have neatened the visible edges with buttonhole stitch (tailor's buttonhole) which is different to blanket stitch and creates a firmer edge.

And... All dressed. I still need to add a belt or some kind of closure. The little cap is just the start of his hat - which, I think, I worked out how to do, while walking the Tilly this morning. He also needs ears and hair.. and, of course, balls to juggle. Getting there one stitch at a time, but I really need to have it finished by the end of the month, so I'd better go sharpen my needle. 

Just before I go...

... you may have been wondering what happened to Mother Hen, the last raised embroidery piece and needlebook projects I did a little while ago. Don't worry, I haven't given up on these kits. In fact both have been sitting on a shelf, as good as ready to go for a couple of months.. waiting on... just two silks to arrive. I ordered them months ago... long story. They are on their way. As we all know, post and shipping is more unpredictable than ever - but as soon as they arrive both the kit for the picture and the needle book will be available in the Etsy SHOP (and on the new website - as soon as that is ready..).
If you want to make sure you don't miss out.. please feel free to Email Me and will make sure I put one aside for you.

Have a lovely week everyone.
Stay Safe, Stay Home & Keep Stitching,
Anna X

Saturday, July 25, 2020

It's a Juggle...

As expected I have not done much embroidery in the past week, and that's ok.

But, yesterday, my fingers were itching for needle and thread. You may remember the stumpwork figure, 'It's a Juggle', I was working on a while back. I suddenly knew exactly what to do with this piece, which prompted me to dig it out from where it has been patiently waiting for inspiration to set back in. 

I haven't done much more yet.. only added a few details along the horizon....

... and yes, there is a date. I think, I am safe posting it here. I would be very surprised if those involved in that date visit the blog LOL.

So, while I plot along with getting the new shop ready, this will give me something to tinker with when I need a little break from the screen and my poor brain needs a break from thinking too hard. 

The week before, I had had a lovely chat with Gary Parr on Fibre Talk. To be honest, I had been a little nervous about it - after all, what was I going to talk about for a whole hour???. I needn't have worried. I should have remembered that it is easy to talk with anyone who shares your interest and Gary made it so much. We talked about how I got here - doing what I do, about stitches, techniques, designing.. and then we ran out of time. The podcast went up last Sunday and can listen to the chat HERE if you like. Thank you Gary for giving me the opportunity to spend the morning chatting embroidery.

Have a wonderful week everyone.
Stay Safe & Keep Stitching,
Anna X

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Crewel & Colour

I have made a good bit of progress on this (still to be named ?) piece of crewel work.
After finishing the main stem, I moved on to the two large leaves on either side. For these, I wanted the the primary colour to be the run of grays. 

The lobes on the lower half are stitched in blanket stitch, with a fine line of a darker shade along the inside to define the edge. I had slightly changed the inner edge of the lobes and in the picture above, you can see a few little dots where the original design lines were. It didn't really matter though, since I wanted to fill the shapes with seed stitch, which neatly cover any dots. 
The grays I am using are Appletons from the run of 961 - They are a warm grey and I had originally thought, I would let the grays run into a very pale grey-blue at the tip. I think I tried every single super light blue-grey in Appletons run of colours - Nothing looked right. At this stage I also felt the colours for the seed stitch was looking too cool...

Before 'reverse stitching' anything, I jumped across to the second leaf to try an alternative. I started with the grays that I knew were working and, while still pondering the colour for the remaining section at the top, filled the lobes with seed stitch using a slightly warmer palette of yellow than before. This is much better. 
While working on the yellows, I had found yet another pale shade of warm grey - well more putty-grey in my stash and thought it was worth a try...

... it worked a treat. The colour is so close the one before it and when the yarns are laying on my table it is almost impossible to tell them apart. Once stitched, the grading is just fell into place. With that finally sorted, I could finish the leaf. 

As you can see, I have quite a few shades in this piece. The light blue is most certainly going and of the other colours, the stronger shades will only be used very, very sparingly to add definition and contrast.

I have unpicked and almost restitched what I needed to on the first leaf, so this is where I am at.  

I am thinking, I will redo the small daisy-type flowers in a different colour but other than that, I feel this is now on track to where I want it. I am not sure how much time I will have to stitch in the coming week. I am in the middle of reworking the website so that I can include the shop. The shop on Etsy has been great, but is becoming rather expensive for me to run as their fees have slowly been creeping up over the years and I think it is time...

Now I really do need to think of a name for it... you have all been really helpful before - any suggestions?

I hope you all have a lovely week, stay safe and keep stitching.
Anna X

Friday, July 10, 2020

Getting started

I have made a good start on my new crewel work design and just quickly wanted to share a snippet of it with you.

I started with the main 'trunk'. Partly because it was the one element that I knew exactly how I wanted to embroidery, but also because it is the most centered element and I like to try and stitch from the center outwards.

The trunk is stitched in very close rows of stem stitch. I know, I have said it before, but I just adore the way stem stitch almost looks woven when used as a filling stitch and you can achieve the most incredible shading.
Next was the large scrolling stems on each side. For those, I first stitched a line of ordinary chain stitch. It looked ok, but I felt it needed a little more texture, so I added back stitch over the top in a slightly lighter shade.

It gives the chain stitch a little more body. I still feel the scrolls need 'something', but I am not sure what, so am leaving them for now.

I then moved on to the sepals. As always when I work the colours and textures start very rough feeling  of what I am aiming for. These shapes are both pointy and some quite curved, I knew, I had to choose stitches and textured that would support and perhaps even accentuate these qualities. 
I wanted the outlines of the shapes to look 'firm' if that makes sense, so again opted for the trusty stem stitch. I have used two shades of grey and a pale blue-grey. As you can  see in the (slightly fuzzy, sorry) picture below, working out the order of colours and how many rows of each, happened progressively. 

I then stitched the center veins in coral stitch with the darkest of grey. Both the colour and texture of the stitches are a nice contrast to the outer edges and I think the knots are quite decorative in their own right.

So this is where I am at, and I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying stitching this piece.

The colour palette is a little different to what I have been working with lately; steel blue-grey is the primary colour (I think) with golden/brass yellow accents and grey-green used to tie it all together.
The inspiration for this colour scheme was borne some time ago during a workshop where I asked participants to stitch one of my designs but using their own colour sheme. A number of the ladies were using grey. It is not a colour I naturally gravitate to, but I loved the contemporary and classy twist it added to the project, so I am looking forward to giving it a go. 

Next up, I think, are the two large leaves...

Have a lovely weekend.
Stay safe and keep stitching,
Anna X

Friday, July 3, 2020

Peacock & Dragon

Peacock & Dragon is one of many exquisite textiles designs by William Morris & Co. 

William Morris, Peacock & Dragon, 1878 

Inspiration for design is a fickle thing. It is not always easy to point a finger at exactly where inspiration comes from. For me, ideas for designs can linger for a long time at the back of my mind. They can be sparked by an experience, something that happens, sometimes just a feeling and often nature and art. 

I have started work on a new piece of crewel work and in my mind, I am referring to it as 'Peacock & Dragon'. At first glance, there is probably no resemblance at all, but it very much inspired by Morris's glorious design. I have had an idea of a Arts & Craft inspired design brewing for a while and naturally flicked through some of my many Morris references. 

I don't know why, but I had an idea of the main design element being 'roundish' and my eye fell on the pomegranate shape between the peacocks. From that, my design began to take some kind of shape. 
One of the many beautiful things about Morris's textiles is the layers and layers of elements - once you start looking for individual details, there is just endlessly much to look at. 

The other thing that really caught my eye in 'Peacocks & Dragons' is the way the rather prickly looking dragons graciously curve out and then towards each other. 
I find the combination of the elegant curves and the spiky shapes that form the feathers and scales? really fabulous. The foliage below the pomegranate shape in my sketch are a very far cry from dragons, but the two flowers curving towards the center and the use of pointy tips for the leaves bear a strong nod to Morris's dragons. 

I did show you the design a few weeks ago and I confess my main motivation to finish The Little Mermaid was because I needed my frame for my 'Peacock & Dragon'. (I really must think of a new name for it....) 
No sooner was the Mermaid off the frame before I got my linen framed up, ready to go. 
I have not felt this excited about stitching for some time.. it is a good feeling.... and yes, I have started but I will have more to show next week. 

Until then,
Stay safe & keep stitching.
Have a lovely weekend,

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Little Mermaid

I don't have loads to share today but really wanted to show you that it is finally finished!

Considering the change of direction this took part way through the stitching (completely of my own doing), I think, I probably like it better than the original version (which the more I looked at it reminded me of the tokens we used to get in Tivoli gardens to play on the various game machines when I was little). You can see the original at the bottom of this blog post HERE

To disguise the lettering marked in permanent ink above and below the mermaid, I ended up creating water, by stitching three 'layers' of waves around the little mermaid. 

Right Way Up
Usually when I work on larger pieces, I don't hesitate to rotate my frame whatever way it takes to make the stitching as comfortable as possible.I think that if I am comfortable and relaxed while I work, my stitches will be so too. 
Well, there seem to be an exception to everything and I found one such exception when stitching the outer ring of waves in Twisted Chain Stitch.
I like Twisted Chain Stitch because of the slightly bumpy texture and had chosen to use it for the outer waves and straight lines around the design. All was going well on the lower part of the design, but when I rotated the embroidery to stitch above the mermaid, it was not as straight forward. I simply could not get the stitches to twist and flow smoothly. To match the direction and twist of the lower rows, I had to stitch left to right, up-side and twist the thread in a way that felt completely awkward - so I gave up; rolled the fabric as much as I could onto the lower roller bar and had to stretch across the frame to work all the rows at the top. Uncomfortable, yes - but a lot less awkward.
I have put a tutorial Twisted Chain Stitch HERE

Now all that is left for me to do is make it up. I don't think I want to frame it and am thinking it will be made into a pillow for someone who I am pretty sure will appreciate it. Can't say who, because I am not sure if that person stops by the blog from time to time.

I am looking forward, as always, to start a new project....

Have a lovely weekend.
Stay Safe & Keep Stitching,
Anna X

Stitch Chat - Twisted Chain Stitch

I have been using Twisted Chain Stitch more and more lately - both for lines, but also as a filling stitch. 
It is a slight variation of the ordinary chain stitch. By twisting the thread for each stitch it forms a slightly  more narrow and raised line. 
What I love most about this Twisted Chain Stitch is the raised texture of the stitch, making it a nice contrast alongside smooth stitches, such as stem and satin stitch.

In my latest project The Little Mermaid, I used Twisted chain stitch for rows of rows of waves. The stitch itself is not difficult once you get into a rhythm to keep the direction of the twists consistent, but I did learn that this is one of the few stitches, where rotating your work, makes it near impossible to keep the twist and stitch direction the same. 
Being right handed, I tend to stitch from right to left, or from the top towards me. The important thing is to keep the twist of the stitches to the same side every time. 

Twisted Chain Stitch

1. Bring the thread to the front at the end of the line. Take needle to the back to one side of the emerging thread (here above).Add caption

2. Loop the thread around making sure it is crossing over itself. Bring the needle to the front on the marked line, inside the thread loop.

3. Pull the stitch to. This is a single twisted chin. It looks like a little fish, don't you think?

4. Take the needle to the back to one side of the twisted chain.
 This should be the same side as the first stitch (here above).

 5. Loop the thread around making sure it is crossing over itself as before.
      Bring the needle to the front on the marked line, inside the thread loop. 

6. Pull the second stitch to as before.
The stitches form a textured line. 
 The aim is to keep the twist and the the tension of    the stitches as consistent as possible. 

The interesting thing about Twisted Chain stitch is just how much the appearance of the stitches can change simply by altering the length of the stitch itself but also the width. 
The two photos below, show the very different look you get if the needle is taking to the back further out from the chain for example. Then it suddenly becomes spiky looking - ideal for prickly blackberry stems for instance.


I wonder how it would look if I stitched a second row in the opposite direction, so the 'spikes' fit into those of the first row???

Twisted Chain Stitch Filling
At first glance, Twisted Chain Stitch, is probably not one that you would pick as a filling stitch for a shape. I know, I didn't until a saw it done and is it beautiful for that purpose. 

The leaf to the right if a section of my Scarlet Glory crewel work design and the textured filling is Twisted Chain Stitch worked in wool. What I love about it, is the ridges it form across a shape.
To get a filling like on the leaf, all the rows must be stitched in the same direction.
  The first row is stitched like above

1. To start the next row, the first stitch should sit immediately next to the previous. 

2. Continue along the previous row, pushing the stitches close against the first row.
  You can stitch subsequent rows both above and below the first. The important thing is to work each row in the same direction and to align the stitches, to get the ridges across the shape the stitches.  

I hope you will have a bit of a play with this stitch. It is one that can easily be used instead of regular chain stitch to add a bit of texture to a piece. 
Have fun with it.

Stay Safe & Keep Stitching,
Anna X

PS - I am really not keen on the new way blogger works - aligning text and pictures is really difficult and I do apologize for rather messy look of this post.