Thursday, December 13, 2012

Little stitching

There has been little stitching for the last few weeks as we enjoyed the arrival of our dear little granddaughter Lila. She is one month old today and too sweet for words. 

In between all the baby sitting I did make my grandson some pyjamas, but unfortunately I am not able to get the photos from my camera onto the iPad I am using, so I have no photos to show you. I will post again when I can upload some photos.

In the meantime, have a wonderful festive season and happy stitching!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Felt Teddies

These little teddies are part of a bigger project I've been working on and which I'll show you in a future post. The pattern for the teddies is from the August 1989 issue of Your Family magazine.

I embroidered the faces of the teddies with stem stitch and satin stitch, making sure that they looked smiley and friendly. Then I used buttonhole stitch around the teddy shape, to join the front and the back together and I put in a little stuffing as I went along.

After my last post I flew to Brisbane and am visiting here for a few weeks, so you may not hear much from me until after the holiday season. My days are filled with looking after my grandson who turns two in December and he should soon have a new baby sister too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Smocked dress and dots

I visited family last weekend and took some handwork to do. I also learned something. Not having my smock-gathering machine with me I used the traditional method to pull up the gathers. I ironed on a transfer of evenly spaced dots on the reverse side of the fabric, then picked up each row of dots with a gathering thread. Although its a lot of work, this method does give beautifully evenly spaced parallel gathers.

I haven't used this method for years and in my effort to make sure that the dots transferred well and that I'd be able to see them, I got a bit carried away with the ironing bit. Not only did the dots transfer well, they transferred so well that they are quite visible on the front of the fabric! I decided to keep going.

Which colours to use? I started out using colours that toned closely with the fabric. After seeing how the green and blue almost disappeared into the background, I realised that for the smocking to show up, I had to use something that would stand out more and added in the red row.

Overall the embroidery does seem to camouflage the dots and I hope they will fade further with washing. To be safe I'll probably add in a row of cable stitch at the bottom to further hide those blue dots there. More progress next time.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Canvas Work Pincushion Class

The pincushion class I taught over the last couple of weeks has come and gone. It wasn't just stitching or new canvas work stitches, but lots of sharing of ideas for new embroidery projects...

chatting and a cup of tea...
and a good laugh too!
Thanks for letting us use your shop Pearl.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wild flowers

A visit to Darling last weekend and the wild flowers at the Tienie Versveld reserve. Such a variety of flowers...


Some of the jewels up close...

My favourite...
There was a long queue of cars to get into the Postberg reserve and the temperature was in the 30's by the time we got there, so we gave it a miss. Next year we'll be there early. We did enjoy the drive home though with carpets of daisies in the fields, swathes of white chinkerinchees right next to the roadway and white frothy ericas in full bloom too.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bayeux Stitch

Recently I did a workshop with Penny Cornell on Bayeux stitch, a stitch that originates from the Bayeux Tapestry. This historical embroidery is believed to have been made almost 1000 years ago in the 1070's and it can be seen in Bayeux, France where it now hangs. It depicts the Norman conquest of Britain and ends with the Battle of Hastings. The embroidery is half a metre wide and almost 70 metres long.

William and Harold in a hunting scene from the Bayeux Tapestry (Wikipedia Commons photo)
The stitching was done on linen and it was embroidered with wool. Stem stitch or outline stitch was used to outline the figures and motifs. These were then filled in with laid threads that were couched down into place. The couching thread sometimes matches the laid threads and at other times contrasts with them.

For my sample of Bayeux stitch, I started by laying down yellow thread and couching it down with the same yellow colour. Then I tried laying down dark green threads and used light green to couch them down. Its was interesting to see how much lighter the dark green appeared with the light green threads overlaying it.

I always find the back of an embroidery interesting, so here it is. You can see that there is almost no yellow or dark green thread on the back because Bayeux stitch makes very economical use of thread.

Finally, I tried laying down light green thread, laying a yellow couching thread on top of it, and using the dark green to do the tiny couching stitches. 

I like the effect of using all three colours together because it has a lively all-over texture and pattern.

I think I need a lot more practice to get those couching lines parallel and evenly spaced, but I did enjoy trying out Bayeux stitch. Perhaps wool, as they used on the Bayeaux Tapestry, is more forgiving? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Resilience, embroidery and a walk on the beach

My dear husband has spent the last few years glued to his computer working on a book, or perhaps buried in his office like a determined mole is a better description. This left me with time to fill on my own and I have spent quite a bit of it working on my embroidery projects, learning to use a digital camera, which is an ongoing process, and setting up my blog.

Now the book is finished and we have left our chairs and done fun things like going for a walk on the beach at full moon with the Muizenberg Moonlight Meander guided walk group. The walks take place on the Saturday closest to full moon, weather permitting and are free.

View south towards Simon's Town
It's a lovely walk to do along the shores of False Bay with the Hottentots Holland mountains in the distance. Unfortunately the day I took my camera with me the clouds came over as we arrived at the beach and there was no moon rising over the mountains to see or to photograph. Perhaps next time...

Looking towards the east and the Hottentot's Holland Mountains
To get back to Rod's book, the title is The Building Resilience Handbook and its available online through Kalahari books. You can also log on to Rod's website Building Resilience for more information.

The book is a practical guide of how to beat stress and adversity by building your resilience. In the book you will learn practical tools and skills to bounce back from difficult organizational and life events such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. You will also learn how to cope with adversity and emerge stronger and more resourceful.

Sorry it took me so long to put up details about the book. I know quite a few of you were interested in it.

More about stitching next time, when I hope that the unusual snowy weather that has beset most of the country over the last couple of days has cleared up and the weather is getting a little warmer.

'Till then happy stitching!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Long-legged Cross Stitch Corner

I have been experimenting this week with turning a corner with long-legged cross stitch. Its a pretty stitch to use as an edging row on a needlepoint pincushion because it gives plaited or braided effect and its simple to do.

The trouble comes when you get to a corner. How do you turn the corner neatly and get good coverage of the canvas? Below is a diagram of my first attempt to make a compensating stitch at the end of the row. I added in the red stitch 13-14 in the diagram below. 13-14 is half of a long leg of the cross.

Then I continued along the next side beginning with a long leg as usual, 15-16 in Corner 1 below, and so on. It does make a very neat finish on the corner. But, once you turn and stuff the pincushion, there is some tension on the corner and the canvas starts to show through. Just a tiny bit, but enough that I wanted to try and find a better solution. So on to Corner 2.

I did the same compensating stitch 13-14 to end the row. Then I added another two compensating stitches. These are the green stitches 15-16 (half of a long leg) and 17-18 (the short leg of a cross).

Corner 2 looks very bulky before the pincushion is stitched up, turned and stuffed. I don't think I would use it to turn a corner on any embroidery that is going to remain flat. It does however give the best coverage of the corner once the pincushion is turned and stuffed.

I have been through a number of stitch dictionaries and spoken to a number of embroidery friends and I have not yet come up with the answer of how to turn a corner with long-legged cross stitch. I'd love to hear from you if you have any suggestions.

Till next time, happy stitching, and have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paterna Wool, no more

Last week I was very disappointed to find out that Paterna wool will no longer be available in Cape Town.

I will miss it because its the wool I most like using for needlepoint stitching on a 14 count canvas. I use one strand and it gives a good coverage of the canvas. It also has a lovely feel when you work with it.

Flower and Cushion Stitch pincushion

For years, Janet Grey has been the only local stockist of Paterna. She is however no longer able to get it from her supplier in the UK as the owner there has sadly passed away after a long illness and the future of his business seems uncertain. So Janet will now stock Appletons crewel wool instead.

This means a change over for me to using 2 strands of Appletons on a 14 count canvas instead of a single strand of Paterna, but Janet assures me that it works well and also that the range of colours is very good. She has ordered the first batch of Appletons and it should arrive quite soon. For the moment I continue to use Paterna wool for my pincushions.

The exciting news is that after talking about it for years, my friend Beryl Saunders and I are designing some patterns for needlepoint pincushions that we will soon have for sale on Etsy.

The photo above is a preview of our first design. The pattern will come complete with full instructions for all the stitches used in the design as well as the design chart. It will be available in pdf format which means that you can download it immediately, print it and start stitching. I will let you know as soon as the pattern is available.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bonnet Stitch

Here is my experiment with Bonnet stitch, a new stitch to me but fun to work. It's a line stitch and something like a twisted herringbone with a chain variation. It's the stitch of the week over on Pintangle's TAST - Take a Stitch Tuesday.

I'm not entirely sure which way the upright bit should twist or if it really matters? And talking of twisting, in the top line of stitches on my sample I tried ending the stitch slightly differently: Along the bottom of the row on the left it has a twisted look, like a twisted chain stitch. On the right it looks more like a normal chain stitch. I think I prefer the twisted look. Do you?

Take a look too at the lovely Bonnet stitch piece here on Ella's Craft Creations done with white thread, pearls and crytals and a softly painted background. It's like a breath of fresh air to look at.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Little tracksuits

Another visit by a dear little grandson is over. I was busy in the weeks before he arrived sewing long pants and little zip-up tracksuit tops to keep him warm in chilly Cape Town. He needs little more than shorts and T-shirts in steamy Bangkok. I was relieved when Liam arrived to find that they all fitted him.

To add a little character, I cut out motifs from a cotton print and appliqued them to the tops.

While sewing, I had a few problems with my trusty old Bernina. I kept breaking the double needles! In the end I had to do without them. I use them to give a nice neat finish around the ribtrim and on the elastic top of the pants. For some reason the needle shank of the double needles is smaller than that of a single needle which worked fine.

It turns out that the clamp on my machine which holds the needle was worn and Bernina don't make the parts any more! Luckily I was able to get a second hand part, but it doesn't bode well for future snags with my machine. It also made me realise that I was making tracksuits on it for Liam's mom when she was his age - some 30 years ago. How time flies!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free Needlepoint Pattern for Pincushion

This little pincushion is quick to make as a useful gift for a special friend. A long time ago I made a slightly larger one for a dear friend. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited her years later and noticed the pincushion on her work space filled with pins and assorted needles all trailing little bits of thread and obviously well used.

Use a variegated thread for a pretty effect. Here is the link to the free needlepoint pattern. Click on the printer icon for your printer friendly copy. I'd love to have any feedback from you, positive or negative.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sewing up a Needlepoint Pincushion

These two small canvas work pincushions were worked on a small scrap of canvas I had left over from another project. I bound the edges of the canvas with masking tape to prevent the threads from snagging as I worked and then I marked the centre of each pincushion with a tacking thread.  I didn't bind the top because its the selvage and it won't snag.

The threads I used are Caron Watercolours. Its a 3 ply thread and I split it and used 2 strands for the pincushion on the left, and only 1 thread for the outer rows of stitching on the other pincushion. You can see a close up picture in my previous post 'Canvas Work Pincushion'.

To finish off the pincushions I chose a cotton patchwork fabric for the backs.

Sometimes when I make up a canvas work pincushion I prepare it by doing an extra round of half cross stitch. I do this once I have finished embroidering the design. The idea is that when you stitch the canvas to the backing fabric, you 'stitch in the ditch' between the the last row of the design (which is satin stitch on these pincushions) and the row of half cross stitch.

When the pincushion has been turned this extra row of stitches helps to stop a line of bare canvas from showing around the sides of the pincushion.

I trimmed the canvas and cut off the corners before I turned it.

Then I stuffed the pincushion with a polyester cushion stuffing and stitched it up using ladder stitch.

And here they are...

It's a quick, fun little project to do. It's also ideal for you if you haven't tried doing needlepoint before. I will post a free pattern with a stitch guide in my next post if all goes according to plan.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Canvas work pincushion

I haven't posted for a while but the family have now left us and are on their way to settle in Australia. How sad we were to see them go but wish them only happiness and success in their new life over there.

Back to stitching. I always like working on little projects and a while ago I began been trying out some new threads on two small canvas work pincushions. They joy of these small projects for me is that they are quick to do and give a lovely sense of accomplishment when they are so soon complete. 

I stitched the pincushions on a 14 count mono canvas. The thread is a 3-ply cotton from the Caron Watercolour Collection, a thread I haven't used before. The variegated colours are so tantalising to look at and I loved the way they blend as you go along. It really is a visual treat to work with such beautiful colours.

It is recommended by Caron that you split the three threads and use only two of the three strands for a 14 count canvas. As I stitched with the two strands I separated them with my needle and plunged my needle into the canvas between them as you can see in photo. This helped to keep the two strands looking neat and stop them from twisting.

I did however find that the two strands gave quite a bit of resistance when I pulled them through the canvas and I decided half way through the second pincushion to try using only 1 thread. It certainly was easier to work with and more gentle on the fingers. The canvas peeps through in places if you look hard but I think the coverage is adequate. If you look carefully you can see that the small pinkish cushion stitches and the outside round of satin stitch look thinner than the centre of the pincushion where I used two strands.

I have put the two pincushions together and will post photos in my next post. I am also charting the design and will include it as a free pattern for you to download. 'Till next time happy stitching.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chikan SAL progress

I have been catching up on the chikan stitch along arranged by Anita on her blog artisticfingers.
Here is my chikan project so far.

The fabric is very transparent and shows off the shadow work, but I had to be careful because any untidy work on the back shows through to the front. The shadows in the photo below pick up some of the places where I have ended off the threads and perhaps worked over them too much when trying to keep them tidy.

I have enjoyed the SAL but it may be a while before my piece is completed. The family have arrived back to stay with us and I am a busy granny again.

The other happening here is that after three long years Rod has finished writing his book on Building Resilience, a self help book on improving your own personal resilience to cope with the difficult times. He has received the first copies from the printer and is setting up distribution channels. More about that soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Just a little stitching

Just a quick post to let you know that life has been busy in the last few weeks, adjusting to having a baby in the house again after all these years. Now the family are away for a week visiting little Jake's Durban grandparents and I have time to catch up on other things.

On the stitching front, in between babysitting, I managed to make a little tracksuit for Jake which went off with him to Durban before I could take a photo for the blog. I have also made some progress on the Chikan stitch along organized by Anita on her blog Artistic Fingers and I will post a picture in the next few days.

Winter arrived with good rains last week. The garden looks so much better for the rain but with it the snails have come out and the plants are looking a little raggedy. I will have to persuade Rod to gather up his torch and go on a snail hunt with me just before we turn in tonight.

I hope your stitching is going well and if you are in the southern hemisphere that you are not finding it too cold yet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chikan embroidery

If you are interested in whitework embroidery you may, like me, have come across a mention of chikankari or chikan embroidery.  It is often mentioned in conjuction with discussions on shadow work and Dresden Lace embroidery because of the similarities between these types of embroidery.

Chikan originates from India and continues to be produced today, centred largely around Lucknow in the northeast. Dresden Lace is of European origin and is named after Dresden, Germany which was the centre for its production in the mid 18th century when this form of embroidery was at the height of fashion.

Both chikan and Dresden Lace are worked on very fine, sheer fabrics like muslin or voile. The transparency of the fabric is key to the delicacy and beauty of the embroidery because it shows off the shadow work to best advantage. Shadow work uses double backstitch or reverse herringbone stitch. It is  found on both Dresden Lace and chikan and it forms a gentle contrast to the open lacy look of the pulled work embroidery that is worked along side it.

Dresden Lace uses a large variety of pulled work stitches and pulled work stitch combinations and it is this which creates its distinctive character. The small fragment below of an 18th century Dresden Lace neckerchief (or shawl) shows: chain stitch which has been used to outline the motifs; shadow work petals; and four different pulled work areas. Two of these areas are made up of combination pulled work stitches quite typical of Dresden Lace.

Dresden Lace (Photo with kind permission of the owner D. Langham)
Chikan on the other hand generally includes a smaller variety of pulled work stitches but it has a wide range of surface stitches to complement the shadow work. Many of the surface stitches in chikan work are unique to Indian embroidery and are not seen anywhere else.

Recently Anita, of the blog artisticfingers, organized a chikan stitch along and I have signed up for it to learn more about this beautiful form of embroidery. So far I have found some cotton voile fabric and traced the design onto it. Below you can see the design pinned underneath the voile ready for tracing off and it gives you some idea of how sheer the fabric is.

I won't be doing much stitching in the next few months while my daughter and family are visiting, but I will post my progress on the SAL if and when I make any. In the meantime to all the other embroiderers taking part in the chikan stitch along, Happy Stitching!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Strawberry Print Smocked Dress

Just a quick post today. A little smocked dress that I made recently has been waiting for that finishing touch and this week I was inspired to make some bullion knot roses to set off the smocking.

I loved the cheerful strawberry print of the fabric and the almost Christmassy colours and somehow it was just right for smocking a little girl's dress. You can see more photos of it over on my Etsy shop.

I am expecting my daughter and family to stay next week and am madly tidying up my sewing room which will be little Jake's room for the next few months, so I expect not too much stitching will be happening. But what fun to be a granny and have a 1 year old in the house again!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Herringbone sampler framed

My little herringbone stitch sampler is done. It was inspired by the Stitch of the Month currently in progress at the Cape Embroiderers' Guild monthly meetings as well as The Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge on Pin Tangle. My idea was to put my sampler in a small 5"x7" frame so that it didn't end up lying around in a drawer and here I am trying it out in an old photo frame.

Mmm... no! It looks too squashed in. I think the embroidery needs a bit more space around the edges. So I take another family portrait out of its frame and lay it over the sampler.

This time I like the effect of the unworked linen around the edges. The embroidery  seems to have more breathing space in the bigger frame.

The problem is that when I started the sampler, I was quite certain that it would go into a 5"x7" frame, so I drew a pencil line onto my linen - just beyond the 5"x7" perimeter where I thought it would be covered by the frame. Only now, I have changed my mind! I want to use a bigger frame and the pencil line shows. Its almost impossible to remove a pencil line - if you have any tips about this do let me know - so its onto plan B: a stitched border to cover the pencil line.

The same dark blue thread used in the sampler seems to work best to visually contain the stitches.

And stem stitch makes a neat line.

Finally, I laced the sampler onto a backing board and slipped it into a frame.

That little project didn't turn out quite the way I'd expected, but I did learn a valuable lesson, again. Do not use a pencil to mark your linen unless you are absolutely sure you will stitch over it. In future I will go back to tacking my outlines even if it does take a bit longer. A little patience in the beginning can save a lot of time later on, especially on larger projects and most especially when you are working on a fabulous linen fabric.

Happy stitching!