Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Started planting

Choosing colours has been fun - unfortunately they don't show up on the scan as well as they should, especially the greens. The garden edging is actually the colour of lavender foliage not grey. The flower colours are not too bad. This is a bit like real life gardening - after it is planted and flowering I often wonder why I chose a particular plant for that position. Ah well! And just as in real life I don't have the heart to pull up a flowering plant so I haven't changed any of the colours I have chosen so far.

Time for some weaving

I am slowly stitching French knots with not much to show for my effort. However it has been a lovely time for thinking. These days I keep finding things to do that let my mind wander where it will - just one reason why I don't mind ironing. I definitely have no desire to take in ironing but the amount I have to do for two people who are retired is not enormous - despite the fact I am a fibre snob and won't wear anything that is not 100% natural fibre content and that usually means cotton for our climate. When I had 4 children at home, and before I decided they were old enough to do their own, I always seemed to have a basket full that needed ironing.

Yesterday I thought about weaving and how most things that I have produced have been "slow cloth" - not quite as slow as covering four square inches in knots - but nonetheless quite slow. I found a photograph of some coffee cosies that I wove in 2006.

As well as day dreaming I seem to spend hours playing Sudoku (isn't everyone addicted?)- then when I got totally hooked, can you believe they came up with Killer Sudoku and Kakuro? My excuse is that it is keeping my brain sharp (well, that is the story - sometimes I am not so sure that it happens as it should!) . However I do enjoy the exercise very much.

Returning to the coffee cosies - they are in double weave with cross stitch numbers different on both sides of the cosy (yes, the sudoku is solvable) . I embroidered the numbers before stuffing the small squares on the loom. Although the yarn was 10/2 cotton and twice as thick as I usually use it took quite some time to make these. I enjoyed the process. To cover the seams and hem I needed a lining and I didn't want a commercial fabric. The tray mat in this photo is the fabric I used - a summer and winter weave in 2/20 cotton that wove up fairly quickly once I had designed the draft. If you enlarge the photo the lettering is quite visible. It is all fairly simple weaving actually but lots of fun. Cosies made like this are extremely good insulators and will keep a pot warm for up to an hour or more.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Three days of knots

It doesn't look much but this is three days stitching time - quite a lot of time, actually, as it includes a weekend. During the week I spend some of my sewing time at the sewing machine making bags etc for the school fair at the end of May - weekends are all mine! When one is retired there has to be something that distinguishes the weekend from the rest of the week.

I have to stitch these knots in 'broad' daylight - that means as strong a daylight as one can get. My eyes need a rest after about 20 inches of thread. The outside is stitched in two rows of single wrap knot using a single strand of floss (another good thing about this sort of stitching : a skein of floss goes a long way!) The French knots are not all great (and that is putting it kindly) and their placement is not particularly good but then, as I keep reminding myself while I stitch, this is Maggie's parterre. I can assure you that it is impossible for me to plant anything in a straight line or at equal distances. My husband can do this with incredible accuracy - his vegetables were always equally separated while mine grew higgledy piggledy. So it is a fairly accurate portrayal of how the edging plants might look if I had really planted them. (How is that for rationalisation of a fairly mediocre piece of stitching?) I have found it not easy to see at times but stitching French knots is definitely addictive and surely practice makes perfect.

The colours have not shown up very well in the scan . I used some of that lovely Anchor multicoloured floss. I bought it thinking I might have a need for it one day. Lovely shades! These knots use two strands so I have pulled out the 2 strands and turned one of them upside down to get a mix. It works quite well. Another fun exercise while I stitch - trying to decide just what flowers am I planting? So far I have decided that I have got nigella and lupins. Maybe I need some nasturtiums? Heliotrope?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Am I going crazy?

I am not sure what I am trying to prove but I have decided to stitch two projects out of two different books. The first is from a book I have borrowed from the library Little book of Parterre and Knot Gardens in French Knots by Christine Harris. I have always loved knot and parterre gardens but never had the patience to produce an actual one in the garden. This seems like a nice opportunity to have my own parterre. Besides I read the reviews of the book on Amazon and as someone there said the designs are all small and would only take a couple of nights stitching. Well the designs are very tiny but I have already decided that this is a WISP and certainly will take a deal longer than a couple of nights. The knots are single wrap knots in one, and occasionally, two strands of floss with the nine square inches of design are to be totally covered in these minute knots. I have already stitched two lengths of floss and the only way I can verify that the knots have been stitched correctly is to use the large magnifier!

The scan above is the last design in the book "Alison's parterre garden" - however I have already added a few changes: the colours will be certainly be of my own choosing- only then can it be Maggies parterre!

The second project is from Trish Burr's Redoute Flowers book - something I have wanted to do for some time. My appetite has been whetted by the beautiful iris that Elmsley Rose has stitched and described so beautifully on her blog - elmsleyrose.blogspot.com. Her attention to detail is amazing. I am almost scared to attempt one of these flowers but having collected the threads to stitch both the single rose and the magnolia I am beginning with the rose. I donot intend to change anything for this piece but will follow the instructions as closely as possible (not sure how I will go as I often have difficulties in merely following instructions on how to stitch a particular stitch but I can only try).
I usually prefer to go my own way and to design my own work. However we left the most magnificent magnolia tree behind when we made the last shift and I am very keen to preserve those memories in stitch. I am not quite sure enough of my abilities to start with the magnolia hence the single rose, which I admire also (our roses were not very successful except for an Albertine that tried to take possession of the whole roof at one stage - and I am very sure there is no way I could portray that beautiful blousy Albertine in thread).
There is no urgency to hurry either of these projects so I will plod along and try to document my efforts here alongside the TIF and other textile happenings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April TIF

Time flies! Well it must when I read it is nearly a fortnight since my last entry.

I have done quite a deal of thinking about change and how I cope with it. Basically I think change is an inevitable part of life. I need to control change when I can and make the most of what happens when I can't be in control. Over the last 10 years my life has changed in many ways - I retired from a full-time job, we shifted house from the country back to the city and there have been some health issues. Some of these were exciting changes, others not so exciting and others quite difficult - similarly some changes were easy to manage, others not so - but nonetheless each day begins as something wonderful and there will always be new challenges.

I decided to represent change and how I try to cope with it by considering flowers - they start as quite small buds and over time change into the fullblown flower. This I enjoy (and do all I can to hang onto as long as possible) until eventually the petals fall and the flower dies - but what joy that flower has provided! I have my first pot, ever, of hyacinths (this is the subtropics after all) sitting on the chest of drawers at the foot of the stairs and the beauty and perfume is amazing. It has been wonderful to watch how they have changed from the pot of green shoots to these beautiful flowers - enough to inspire an embroidery,perhaps.

To my embroidery for the month. These are the colours of the month as I had seen them on my monitor. However I certainly wasn't using them in the same proportions as Sharon's Chinese photo - there is a preponderance of the pink and purple with some vanilla, green and terracotta/orange added. This gave a totally different feel to the colour scheme. I do find that my computer screen seems to give different results from others that are suggested.

My stitch list was again fairly restricted. The pulled thread is in single faggot stitch. (Another new stitch to me - I found this in Mary Thomas). This month I used a #12 perle and what a difference that made in comparison to the doubled Gutterman polyester sewing machine thread from last month - it was a dream to stitch whereas last month every stitch was a struggle. (A thought - could it have been the polyester thread? Maybe I should try pulled thread with doubled 'cotton' sewing thread.

The flower outline is in whipped stem stitch, again perle cotton. The fly stitch is also in Finca perle. The rest of the piece consists of buttonhole wheels and French knots (what else!). I tried to use a variety of thread. I found it very difficult to stop stitching and at one stage I thought I would have to do some unpicking but decided against this after I added the darker knots in the centre of the flower.

I would be very grateful for any criticism of this piece, especially designwise - I find working in isolation very difficult. As I mentioned in an earlier post I am a beginner in the total process (interestingly this came about because of a change in circumstance) and would really appreciate any help that anyone might offer.
Added later: I am really looking for suggestions in ways in which I might improve my work - thanks a million!

While I was working this piece I met up with Paula from The Beauty of Life and she very generously gave me an enormous bundle of DMC floss - threequarters of which were tints and shades of my chosen colours. Some of these are tucked into the knot section. I still have not worked out how to put photos where I want them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alysha's biscornu

This has kept me occupied recently - a biscornu - it is a birthday gift for a young neighbour. I am not sure if she is doing needlework yet but I think these little cushions are treats on their own.
The new-to-me stitch was tulip stitch and it was fun to do in Anchor variegated perle. I used green Finca perle for the herringbone and DMC floss, 2 strands for the crossstitch.
I think biscornu is a lovely form for needlework - I have ideas for the next one floating around in my brain already.
Just a comment - I was caught out badly - the cybersampler letters , which I love, were supposedly 13 stitches high. Foolishly I didn't check until the A was half done as it was going to finish much too early. I had doubled the number of stitches in both directions so I assumed it would finish 26 by 26. No - it was only 11 stitches and while that may not have mattered too much if I had not been doubling the stitches 4 stitches less really upset the applecart. However the fly stitch managed to save the day as I am not certainly very happy to unpick masses of crossstitch. I can so easily cut a thread!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Vintage tatting

I have a few lovely pieces of handiwork done by various people in my family that I treasure. This amazing linen mat has sat with my linen since my mother gave it to me many years ago and only recently brought out. It did seem a pity to leave it to languish in the drawer any longer. The scan is of just one corner- its overall size is about 16 x 10 inches. I used pink tissue under the white mat to define the tatting in the scan and this makes the tatting look pink - it is snowy white.

It is in perfect condition and was made by an aunt of my father no later than the 1940s. I am not sure exactly which aunt - he had two maiden aunts, Katy and Kitty, who were very good to him while he was a young man studying away from home. Kitty was an early childhood teacher while Katy looked after the house so I could probably hazard the quess it was Aunt Katy, the second daughter in my grandmother's family, who did the handiwork. Since I am now the lone tatter in the family I was also lucky enough to inherit a tatting book that belonged to them. I am very sad that I can't pinpoint who actually did it but the work is very delicate and is attached to a lovely fine linen using the neatest, narrow buttonhole stitch. I wish I could remember seeing either of the sisters with a tatting shuttle in her hand.

As far as I know while my mother and her grandmother were amazing with crochet hook and knitting needles and others did lovely stitching, noone else in the family could tat. In my final year at school a friend taught me the basic stitch using string - a brilliant aid to learning as there was no mistake as to why a stitch mightn't slide. I don't get out my shuttle very often these days but, early last year I did manage to produce a narrow length to use on a blouse. However my tatting uses a much thicker thread - I can't imagine how long it might have taken to make this mat. The blouse that is planned is still only yarn sitting on the shelf to be woven in the future! Definitely a work in SLOW progress!