Monday, March 31, 2008

Needlepoint bracelet

Thanks to everone who commented on my two March challenge pieces. I really appreciate the feedback.

Next week I'm teaching a class at my local embroidery group. It will be a needlepoint bracelet I made for myself a year ago. I spent the weekend restitching the needlepoint squares as samples and also so I could chart it because the first time I did it I just sat down with thread and a scrap of canvas and stitched. Some of the squares were obvious (basketweave, waffle, leviathan) but others were mysteries.

I really got into making little squares and ended up with two sample sets. I also sorted through the bracelets, added adhesive squares to my package of things to bring---to stick the finished needlepoint squares into the bracelets. (I ordered those a while ago from the wonderful people at Memory Maker.) I've seen these bracelets at Jo-Ann's, too. I got my designs charted, too. So the class is ready to go.

I stitched the original bracelet and lilac samples with Needle Necessities Kreinik #12 braid overdyed. I loved working with it and one skein was plenty.

Each needlepoint square is 12 threads by 12 threads on 18 count canvas. I've decided to post it all here so you can make your own fun bracelet, too.

The second set of stitches is done with Laura Wasilowski's hand-dyed perle 5 and I just had fun stitching. I ripped as much as I stitched and had an enjoyable rainy Sunday.

The stitches are row 1: random from the center, a spaced-out Leviathan (every other thread) (this is the name by which I know this stitch but when I looked it up for a link, the stitch by that name was the same as what I know as Smyrna Cross so I couldn't find a chart for it) and web stitch. In row two I tried a spiral, pinwheel design, an eyelet with some tie downs--I did one layer of very spaced out eyelet stitches, added diagonal stitches at the corners, another layer of eyelet to fill in and then I wove in another diagonal stitch at each corner, Pekinese stitch. The bottom row is satin stitch, plaid stitch, and knit stitch.

I couldn't find links to these last two, although I know there are out there somewhere. Plaid stitch mimics weaving and you can use it to duplicate tartans and other weaves. I just let the random colors of the thread make the pattern. Knit stitch is just two slightly elongated tent stitches (down 2, over 1), alternating direction \/\/\/\/. Each horizontal row encroaches on the previous row and the result looks like knit fabric.

To finish, cut the squares apart three to four canvas threads from the stitching, trimming the corners on the diagonal. Coat the back of the needlepoint with glue (I use Tacky). Then rub a light coating on the back of the unstitched canvas. This will soften the canvas. Once the canvas is pliable, fold it to the back of the stitching and make sure it's glued down. The only tricky part of this is keeping the glue that gets on your fingers off of the front of the stitching. Just take it slow and be careful.

Use a double-stick archival product to stick the finished squares into the bracelet. (Remove and discard the photo and plastic, unless you want to use one or more of your bracelet squares for photos. Instructions for that come with the bracelets.) I just prod and cram the needlepoint into the bracelet bead square opening, tucking the corners into the openings if possible. Some stitches are easier than others. The stitches with the least thickness, especially on the back, work best.

Since your sitches will be secured with glue, you don't need to worry about being careful about really securing the stitching with long tails and weaving in. I kept my tails very minimal and looked for ways to stitch without a lot on the back.

I have not yet tried the finishing on the squares with a lot of open canvas. I'm leaving those for the class so we can all learn. It could be that they're a mistake (which is why I stitched 11 squares (I cut out and didn't photograph two) for a bracelet that only needs six--earrings, anyone?)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fiber & Stitch Challenge piece

I finished it last night and took photos this morning. I was quite unhappy with the project at first and feel I need to experiment a lot more with working with Misty-Fuse, sheers and fabrics, but in the end I'm quite pleased with the outcome.

The embroidery is all done by hand. I used only three stitches: straight, outline and French knots. Once I decided to see about lighting it from behind, I wanted to avoid the shadows that would have appeared with more extensive embroidery.

I made the landscape into a tube because when I showed it to my husband, I held it in front of a light. The effect was striking and he said it reminded him of those painted shades (with landscapes or cowboys and Indians) from the 1950s that would rotate. It just so happened that the landscape matched up quite well along the seam line.

We don't have a light that fits inside but right now it does fit perfectly over the ever-present box of Quaker Oatmeal in the kitchen.

I discussed the project previously here and here.

This project has sparked additional ideas. I'd like to do an all-felt landscape, using bits of loose wool to add the haze of distance. I'd also like to do a landscape with only one background fabric, building up the landscape from sheers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March Take-It-Further Challenge

Here is my finished book page for March. I --- quilted around the printed sand/earth image with one strand of Needle Necessities overdyed floss. I auditioned a number of threads to "halo" the flames and the side and ended up using a mystery copper metallic thread couched with Kreinik #4 braid in Vatican. The mystery metallic is about the size of a #8 braid but softer. I stitched it to a backing of a commercial "tie-dyed" quilting cotton with rusts, greens, and golds. I used sage-color satin ribbons for the binding loops.

It still seemed unfinished so I couched a strand of SJ Designs Confetti (Strawberry Ice) around the outside edge. Confetti is a metallic thread inside a shimmery sheer tube and now the piece is "finished."

I’ve also been adding hand embroidery, mostly using various overdyed flosses, to my landscape challenge piece for Fiber & Stitch. Here it is so far.

I'm planning on making it a free-standing tube (it's wider than shown in this scan). All the wrinkles in it when flat are because I keep rolling it.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I have finished my felt flower purse. It was quick and fun, just what I needed for a dreary month. (As I type this it's snowing hard outside.)

Here are photos of the front and back of the purse. The flowers were from a Bucilla kit for making felt flowers. I used all the scraps and off cuts to make some more.

The top is stiff and secures with snaps and a button. The bottom is big and pouchy and I think it will good for knitting or crochet.

When I was done, I took the time to clean out my pincushion. My sister-in-law gave this to me ages ago and I love it. I needed to replace one of the spools and that's what prompted the task. Plus, so many needles were buried inside that it was dangerous to pick up.

I took all of the needles out and then carefully pushed out all that had wiggled their way inside. I now have loads of needles to use! (it's the sharp ones I use most that disappear first.

The pink heart tassel holds sharp needles, to help keep them from getting lost. The tiny betweens go here.

As I was putting it back together, the white spool jumped off and into the black hole that seems to have developed by my chair. I looked everywhere, moved things, but no white thread was to be found. Oh, well...

Now it's back to the challenges.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


With the big quilt show coming up, I certainly don't need to be buying fabric, but that's what I did yesterday. I recently got this book at Jo-Anns (with a 40% off coupon!)

I love the designs for small accessories in it but I just don't have the types of fabrics she uses (mostly lovely Japanese silks and cotton prints). But I found Amy Butler's Belle Collection at Windmill City Quilts in Geneva, IL and fell in love. I purchased half-yards of several.

I have been staying focused (my word for the year) however and have been concentrating on working on my felt tote bag. I got huge (abount 1/2" across) antique brass finish snaps for closures (the top's going to be heavy with those felt flowers so I didn't want it to flop). The bag's all together. I used the Eskimo Edging Stitch to join the bottom of the bag, using one strand of Watercolors. I also have a button closure. I got some beaded trim to cover the seam between the top and bottom of the bag. The bag's all together and I added half the snaps last night. Tonight I'll add the second half of the snaps and a button closure at the top and then begin adding flowers.

Terry had a perfect suggestion for my TIF project in her comment on this post--I do think I need to add a light line around the "flames." I'm contemplating how best to do that. Thanks, Terry!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Busy weekend

I had a busy weekend and got some things done finally. All were things that I'd been working on in the background and they finally began to come together. I printed my "world in sand" image onto fabric. It didn't come out as I'd hoped and I lost the background I'd added to make it the size I needed.
The colors are much more faded than my original. I expect some fading when printing but this was extreme. My hubby even got in on the action, doing some reading and trouble shooting with the printer and scanner. We found a couple of problems but I decided to go with what I had in a "make it work" mood.
I also realized that one of my difficulties with paying attention to the small things is that I tend to get lost in them and loose what little focus I have on the big picture (seeing the big picture is very hard for me). So I decided I needed to get on with it.
I filled out my page with some lovely hand-dyed silk that's been in my stash for probably 20 years. I fused the silk in place after cutting around the "flame" shapes. What I see is the fires of creation. What my hubby sees are maple leaves on the ground in autumn. What do you see?

While I was fusing, I began working on a fused landscape for a Fiber&Stitch challenge, using an article by Helen Suzanne Alexander on Depth and Distance. Last weekend I found this incredible rainbow chiffon that changes color as you layer it. I started with a layer of Lutradur and fused on some hand-dyed fabrics by Laura Wasilowski that I had in my stash (including the incredible sky hand-dye). I layered on the chiffon to make the sky look like sunset and ten layered over the landscape with layers of different colored chiffon. I also used some Misty-Fuse black, too, to add some texture.
I'm not totally happy with it and am glad that Misty-Fuse is so flexible because I pulled up and trimmed back some layers. I found much of the sheer fabric I had was too intensely colored or not sheer enough to be effective. I do plan to add some embroidery to it and I have a small skein of mystery-thread in a pale blue with a silver thread throughout that will really perk up the lake and waterfall.
There are two images of the landscape because it's bigger than our scanner bed. When it's all done and completed, I'll take a photograph to get it all. I didn't think about that size issue when I was cutting the Lutradur!
Originally I had some thought about cutting the large piece into smaller postcards but I needed to have planned better for that and, I think, worked on a finer scale.
For a first experiment, I'm not displeased but I will need more practice manipulating the fabric, sheer and fusible. I'm letting it sit for a bit now, before I add embroidery and think about how I want to finish the edges.

My other project this weekend is another stash-based project. A while back I'd bought a sale Leisure Arts kit from Hobby-Lobby for making a variety of felt flowers. Over the last couple of weeks, especially on evenings when I was tired and not feeling up to using my brain, I worked on finishing these flowers.
They're all done: roses, pansies and little forget-me-knot type flowers. I pulled out the felt stash and chose a loden wool for the top and handle, some very stiff felt for an interlining, and a periwinkle wool felt for the body of the bag. I'm going to keep it simple, no pockets or lining.
Last night I got the handles stitched and stitched the top for one side and inserted the stiff lining. It works like I wanted. I pinned on the body of the bag and think it will work. Tonight I plan to stitch the second top and handle section.

I feel like I'm starting the week in a good place, project-wise. I know where I'm going and I have a plan for things I can do to make progress during the week. I even got in a little work on my nephew's band sampler. I have begun working on the turkey work tails of the squirrels, using some Needle Necessities overdyed wool.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beaded Stars

This cute star was featured in Bead & Button magazine in the October 2006 issue. Jane made me one for Christmas in 2006 using fine beads--it's very delicate. (I had planned to scan it and then completely forgot.)

Mine are not delicate. The colorful one uses 6mm bicone crystals and size 6 beads. The clear snowflake uses 4mm bicones and very irregular size 11 beads (rejects from a friend's business).

Each took one evening to make and I must say the second one went quicker than the first, since I'd learned the ins and outs of the pattern.

I did think it was a bit helpful to make the larger, colorful snowflake first, the beads were a bit easier to handle and see. I think it would be fun to make the clear snowflake using colored thread.

The crystals were leftovers from Liberace and the beads were in my stash!

Other than that, I haven't gotten much done this week--I haven't been home in the evenings long enough to do anything. I've been fiddling with finishing up some felt flowers from a kit I got on sale at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago. I love working with felt but am not sure what I'll do with all of these flowers! (roses, pansies and a forget-me-not like posy).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I won!

I am so excited! My recipe card won in the Fiber&Stitch Kitchen challenge draw. My subscription is extended four more issues--can you think of a better prize than that?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Take It Further & Weekend Projects

Looking back I got a lot done this weekend but I am feeling frustrated because I didn't get into that "zone" until Sunday night and then I had a hard time stopping and getting ready for the week. I was up way too late as a result and am tired today.

I had so much fun doing the Pink squares last month, I kept going. I had found a little silver cardboard open-top box that's the perfect size for the squares and I decided to fill it and keep it on my desk at work. Here are my first three squares. I used more markers and paint this time. I used Sharpies and colored the backgrounds and also colored some white plastic produce netting. It's hard to see in the scans but I left some of the netting loose and raised from the fabric. The shadows form nice designs. I also used painted cheesecloth, an image transfer, and beads.

Last week I played a bit in Photoshop and learned about layers and created this image for the March TIF challenge. I had wanted to play more in Photoshop for a long time and I really learned a lot. I manipulated a micro-photograph of sand to enhance the colors and texture and then layered it with photographs of the earth taken from outer space. I then added the text. Pretty basic stuff but I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I sized the image in a Word document and added a background to the page and brought it home to print. When printed on the fabric, the colors were dramatically changed and not at all what I'd hoped for. My husband and I worked with another photograph for which I had the original photo and not just the Word document and that came out much better so I plan to take the original art for this home and try again one night this week.

Tonight is the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild meeting. It's the last one before our Monica Ferris Lecture Luncheon so we'll see how ticket sales are going and plan favors.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

elephant hat

My husband brought home this hat for me to look at; it belongs to a friend. I just love it. I believe it was made in India and it doesn't look to be that old.

If anyone knows anything about this type of item, I'd love to know more.

What intrigued me most is the thread. I've been following along on the Plimoth Plantation blog about their recreation of a 17th Century embroidered jacket. They talked about matching the thread from their original model, where a fine wire was twisted with the silk. Take a look at this thread---it's cotton twisted with a fine wire.

I assume it's for the same reason it was used in the 17th century, to add sparkle and catch the light. The spangles are also handmade. And it looks like some bits of hardware, almost, are used for larger, dimensional spangles.

I found the historical connection amazing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Silly Fun

Last week I found a set of stickers on sale at Michael's. They said "Bella," "Pretty as a picture," "beautiful," and other sweet phrases. Well, a friend's granddaughter is named Bella so I just had to get them!

I added an inexpensive wood frame and letter B, some paint and glitter that I had and a set of 3-D sticker flowers (stickers by K&Company) and for less than $5 I have a really cool frame! Before giving it to my friend, I removed the painted and glittered over center cardboard and added a photo of the frame's namesake.

I think my flu has lingered a bit and I haven't felt much like focusing and stitching so this project was a perfect crafty filler.

Monday, March 3, 2008

March Musings

Thanks to everyone who commented on my February TIF challenge piece, Liberace. I really appreciate all of the comments here and on the TIF blog and on Flickr. I'm really happy so many people feel Liberace would have liked it.

I didn’t pick up a needle this weekend, except to do a bit of mending. Saturday we set up at Santa’s Toy Show in Highland, Indiana. We’ve been doing this antique and collectible toy show for probably twenty-five years and it amazes me each time to see many of the same dealers and the same customers. We’ve watched kids grow up and have their own families and seen those kids grow up. It’s gotten much smaller since it’s peak in the 80s and 90s, but it’s still fun.

Sunday we visited another conservatory, this one in Lockport/Joliet is called Birdhaven and it’s another nice one. As a postscript to my Liberace piece, here’s a photo of a candelabra cactus, complete with it’s own spotlight.

All the while I was thinking about the March TIF challenge. Once again the theme has my brain running. I also like this color scheme. I’ve long made a practice of trying to pay attention—to the beauty of a vegetable as I slice it, the sparkle of a snow flake as I shovel, and the flow of each stitch as I embroider. There was a book back in the 70s called “Be Here Now” by Ram Das and that’s what I’ve always striven for (with limited success).
So I have a huge archive of little moments of great meaning—it almost feels like too many ideas.

The first thing that came to my mind was the poem by Blake: “To see the world in a grain of sand.” Tanguera posted more of it on her blog. I played around with an electron microscope photograph of sand thinking about using it as a basis for embroidery.

The second thing was a stitch. Just a single stitch. Each stitch is the first stitch and all stitches, pulling the thread through. And so I’ve thought of doing a page with just one stitch. And then I thought of one stitch growing into dozens and hundreds.

I also thought of my niece’s recent stitched piece (link to blog page) and how it’s one small beginning but is part of a long chain with links going back with mom’s embroidery, and her mother’s tatting, and back further most likely.