Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ikat Weaving

This is a piece of handwoven silk fabric that is almost vintage! I was reminded of its existence in a discussion on faux ikat I had recently with Romilly of Romilly has some interesting observations on using multicoloured thread. Handweavers use spacedyed yarn to produce 'faux ikat' by adjusting the colours in the yarn to fall where required.
However the silk fabric, woven over 23 years ago, is a piece of double ikat that has been stored until I was ready to make a bag.... not sure if I am ready yet, but maybe I should be! I think I was so pleased with the result and realised I would probably never make another - so I certainly didn't want to spoil it. Over the years my attitude to my handwoven fabric has definitely changed. Now I can cut into it with total abandon - there will always be the opportunity to weave more (hopefully) or at least something that will coordinate well with the original.

Ikat can be warp, weft or double. The principle is based on resist dyeing and tieing to produce a design. For warp ikat - sections of the warp alone are wrapped securely before immersing in a dye bath - after drying this is undone and beamed. During the beaming process sections of the warp can be adjusted to 'move' the pattern in one direction or another. Similarly for weft ikat the weft alone is dyed after being carefully skeined for sections to be resisted. Double ikat moves on one step further as it uses resists in both directions. It is easy to see why design can be quite difficult. My woven piece is an extremely simple version of double ikat. Ikat is a craft that has been practised in many cultures - Indonesia, in particular. A good article can be found in Wikipedia .

Monday, February 18, 2008


Thankyou, Jo Anne for your comment. Biscornu apparently means "many horns" - sorry I can't remember exactly where I found that definition. I found a tremendous amount of information just by googling "biscornu" but unfortunately I don't keep very good records of my travels around the web. (Not a good admission by an exlibrarian!).

One site I did bookmarkwith a list of tutorials on how to make a biscornu pincushion, among other things, was

They are certainly fascinating shapes. It makes me wonder how a pair of pentagons joined in a similar way would end up. Or even more than two? I wonder has anyone made one such structure. Maybe the pentagons could be a project for the future.

Stitching on February TIF colour challenge finished!

The stitching is complete except for the backstitch edge for which I need a perle cotton - hopefully the needlework shop will have a match. There is a carton of combed washed wool lurking under the stairs which will make great filling!

However because I am mean with my fabric I will not complete the biscornu until I have used the end of this piece. The Aida was purchased as a fat quarter and cut it in half so there is a postcard sized piece left on the end. However this will only fit in my hoop if I don't cut off the work I have done. I have designed a First Communion card for my grandson - it is in cross stitch and needs to be done within the next month so I should be able to get them both out of the way in the not too distant future.

The buttons are temporarily connected to show the finished effect. They were two lonely buttons in my blue drawer. Their provenance is unknown - could be vintage, almost. I can't bear to throw out a button and unless I am giving away a piece of clothing I will carefully cut each and every button off . This is an inherited characteristic - my mother and grandmother did the same (and my grandmother did not even sew!) Mum always said it was our Cornish ancestry. I wonder! She was wonderful as she would unpick the bottom of sleeves of jumpers she had knitted for my boys who seemed to grow their arms overnight and then reknit in the opposite direction ( all this in 3 ply or finer) - and if there wasn't enough wool left she would redo an even longer section to be able to add some fairisle or stripes or both. When I think of how long it took me to knit anything I am still overawed by her knitting.

I was not sure I liked the colours in the beginning but it turned out that they were easy to use. It was good to have used the month's colour palette to make something simple. My only reservation about this biscornu working as a workaday pincushion is that some of the stitches may be a tad long for the purpose and could catch as the pins go in and out. I have tied down the longer stitches but it will be a good trial to use it for a time and see if I need to tie the stitches more. Anyway it will be a good excuse to design another.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another finish!

I forgot to record that in the last fortnight I had also finished the first blackwork sampler - the gum leaves. So I have done quite well this month in reducing my WIPs. Actually I was quite sorry to finish this one as I enjoyed it enormously. Never mind I will have to make another - there are plenty of gum leaves in the garden to trace!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One side finished

Well, a morning's work has produced this much. Sorry about the crooked picture. I am not that thrilled with my french knots but am reasonably happy with the overall design. Definitely not colours I would work with normally but the total effect was not unpleasing.

I seem to have managed to get the picture at the bottom of this entry - not sure how!

Now I just have to make some decisions about the other side of my biscornu. I have found one ancient button that will be perfect for the centre of the top.

February Colour Challenge

While I have not blogged in nearly two weeks I have not been completely idle. I did finish a crossstitch sampler I started for my granddaughter in 2001! Not exactly a quick worker. I thought it only needed mounting and framing but looking at it recently I decided that the piece itself needed a stitched frame . This was not an original design but a sampler from a Burda Crossstitch Special. While I spent some time stitching three of these samplers about 7 or 8 years ago I find crossstitch repetitive and counting from charts quite difficult nowadays. However I am pleased to have finally completed the last two samplers.

Reporting on the TIF challenge for this month ( there has been some wonderful work reported on so far - I keep resolving to look only at the end of the month but then just can't help myself!) - for the moment I have shelved the theme section of the challenge and decided to use the palette to stitch a biscornu. "Biscornu" is a comparatively new word in my vocabulary. Isn't the Web wonderful! I love that shape and have been meaning to make myself such a pincushion for a little while.

The fabric is 16 count cream Aida and the embroidery will be on two 4 inch squares. Designing embroidery for a purpose, other than a postcard , is something that is new to me. However I am enjoying the challenge.

Once again I am sticking to a very limited palette, just 5 colours of DMC stranded floss. I based my decision on the colours on my computer printout of Sharon's graphic plus the RBG numbers. The final choice was 3778, 3773, 158, 932 and 3752.

Originally I thought I might try to design a suitable crossstitch pattern for this biscornu. However it seemed this might be a good opportunity to use some of my newly acquired PLOS stitches.

As usual the design will evolve as I stitch- I really would like to be able to get it all down on paper first but that just doesn't seem to work very well for me. If I keep trying maybe one day it will happen! Also because I have not made one of these before I can only guess exactly where focus stitches need to be placed. Maybe I need to cut out two paper squares and fingershape them to help.

Not much done so far! However here are the colours and the outline.
A postscript - Why can't I get blogger to put my images where I want them?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

February TIF challenge

This month the challenge is about our earliest memories - I have quite a few of these . However there is always the problem about my earliest memories - did I really remember things from when they actually occurred? or do I just remember the stories that were repeated over the years.

I can certainly remember World War II in Cairns, where we were very lucky- no attacks, just air raid sirens that went off necessitating a retreat to our air raid shelters. The shelter was usually just a big trench covered with a piece of roofing iron. We had a lovely one in our back garden. As well as shelters all homes had brown paper covering the glass on the windows - it was important to ensure no light was visible at night. The night sky must have been a wonderful sight with no interference. The schools in Cairns were closed in 1940s so I started my lessons by correspondence.

My first reading book is still imprinted on my memory. "A is like an apple on a twig - a says 'uh' ". Then there were the ration books and coupons which were still in use in 1947 - amazing that Australia needed to ration food - I remember reading that the rationale behind that decision was that as much as possible was sent to Britain. War parcels to relatives living there were important. My husband who grew up on a farm remembers his mother sending, with fruit cakes and other food, preserved eggs in milk tins (the eggs were well protected with fat) to his grandmother in England. No doubt the rendered beef fat was also received with thanks - eggs and butter were in very short supply, I gather, in the Old Country.

However I have decided that I don't really want to use these images for the challenge. At my age I am fascinated by memories and how important they can become. In early and midlife one can be much too busy living to spend much time with memories. Another interesting thought is how the very earliest memories for some people can become the most vivid.

So instead of taking on this challenge literally I would like my design to demonstrate the way memories, especially the earliest, can impinge upon our thoughts over a lifetime.