Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Not much to say here and no new pix today. Spring has sprung! I think I have spring fever--I'm sleeping a lot and feeling lazy. It's approaching 70 today and very windy. In my morning walk I found a small patch of purple crocuses blooming in our back yard. Last weekend I passed a yard full of scilla on my way to visit my sister--the blue was intense! I've seen a rare daffodil or two, also, mostly near brick or stone (for retained warmth).

My left hand's been acting up again and I noticed last night my wrist was swollen. I switched the mouse to my right and it's improving. Not much stitching over the weekend and none at all this week.

I'm still walking mornings. The lawn with blue fabric fragments has been raked and the fragments gone--mostly. Before the raking, I began to find strips of the blue fabric all up and down the street. Even now, I'll see one or two fragments on my walk. I'm assuming the local creatures grabbed them up for nesting and dropped some along the way. I have my own little nest of collected bits of blue strip and thoughts of embroidery.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Japanese Embroidery in Chicago

If you're in the Chicago area and you've ever wanted to try Japanese Embroidery, here's a local opportunity. This small project will teach you all of the basics of this technique.
© Original Design by KAREN L. PLATER

In Japan , the symbolism of the Koi fish represents perseverance in adversity, determination, and strength of purpose. It is usually considered a symbol of masculine strength, though it can be applied to women as well.

Try your hand at a variety of traditional Japanese Embroidery techniques in silks and metal threads while creating this playful and symbolic design.

Class: SAT – MAY 22 and SUN – MAY 23, 2010
Place: Hyde Park – Chicago , IL
Proficiency Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Design Size: 6” circle
Cost: Complete kit - $100 + Teaching fee - $50
Registration: $75 deposit
Deposit Due: May 1, 2010
Contact: Ruth Bloom -

About the Teacher:
Karen L. Plater has mastered all ten Phases for certification as a teacher (sensei) of Traditional Japanese Embroidery and has been teaching for 6 years.
In 2006 she completed a two-year teaching apprenticeship at the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta where she continues to teach. Karen also has monthly classes in her Florida home studio and is now expanding her teaching locations to include Chicago , IL . She continues to travel to Japan for study with professional embroiderers and recently taught an original design at a retreat in Maine .
Her work has been on exhibit in Japan , the United Kingdom and the United States . In October, 2008 she hosted a one-woman show of her embroideries at the University Club of Winter Park, FL.

“ It is only through achieving a combination of technique and design skills while expressing a personal sensitivity that one is able to pursue the beautiful art of Nuido or the “way” of embroidery.”
Class: SAT – MAY 22 and SUN – MAY 23, 2010
Class time 9:30A to 3:30P. (Classroom will be open at 9:00A for set-up). Lunch 12N - Bring a lunch. Please be prompt and plan to stay for the entire class.

Place: Hyde Park – Chicago, IL
The location of class is Regents Park Apartments 5020 S. Lake Shore Drive (enter via East End Ave.). Please tell the concierge that you are visiting Karen Plater in “corporate” apartment 316N.

Design Size: 6” circle

Kit Fee/Contents: $100; traditional small Japanese frame, obi silk with design and special dyes applied, all flat silks and metallic threads required to complete the design, special tools (tekoburi, koma, assorted needles) and instruction booklet with color image.

Teaching Fee: $ 50

Supplies to bring to class: Please bring your regular stitching supplies plus - notepaper and colored pencils, small ruler in millimeters. Should you feel the need for a magnifier or project light, bring your own.

Registration and Deposit Due: $75 - May 1, 2010
Fill out registration form, then make check payable to KAREN L. PLATER
Get all information and check to Ruth Bloom

Contact: Ruth Bloom ( Chicago-Hyde Park contact)
4940 S. East End Ave.-Apt 18B
Chicago , IL 60615
HOME 773-752-2420 WORK 773-702-3628
Class: SAT – MAY 22 and SUN – MAY 23, 2010


NAME: _________________________________________

CITY: _________________________________________

STATE: _______________________ ZIP: ______________

PHONE: ___________________

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4940 S. East End Ave. –Apt 18B
Chicago, IL 60615

Friday, March 26, 2010

More stitchin'

This project is what stopped my stitching, I realized. I was doing buttonhole stitch with pale pink on the dark green fabric and I hated it. I ripped it all out and then just stopped. With a couple of weeks of thought I started in again--but in a different spot where the color of the ground showing through wouldn't bother me as much.It's moving along, finally. Since taking this photo, I've completed the three yellow petals. I've also decided to pad the pink area at the other end with pink. That should solve my problem. I'm not sure if I'm going to fuse on pink fabric or if I'll use pink felt (which may be too thick).This is another project for the YMCA, for fall classes. We'll call it "Tattoo Your Jeans" and ask students to bring in a garment (with parental permission) to embellish with embroidery. This is a WIP because I hope to add a lot more embroidery to these teeny (toddler size 2) jeans from Goodwill. This week was our last class for this session. I hope we can find more teachers so everyone gets more of a break--we're hoping to find people willing to teach four weeks (one month), and then have a few new people take over for the next month. Hopefully we can rotate and no one will get as burnt out on it as we are right now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

back to stitching!

It feels so good! I had been slowly plugging along on things but it just seemed very slow. We had a quiet weekend at home and that helped a lot. This kitchen towel had been my "carry along" project for ages (and ages). I finished it up this weekend. It's an Aunt Martha's transfer stitched with green Needle Necessities overdye and plain DMC floss in orange and gold.I found I really could only work on this white-on-white project on early weekend mornings when DH was asleep. On Saturday, though, he took off alone for some errands so I got extra time and got this finished to this step. There may be more to come but the church ladies wanted to see it at this point before deciding.I found it was fun but rather tricky to hold the hoop, the loose under thread and the extra fabric out of the way with one hand while stitching a very knotty thread with the other. I ripped a lot, mostly due to knots on the back that I didn't catch when they happened (and I caught the majority). This thread knotted with nearly every stitch. Working two handed so tension could be kept on it would have been much better. The knots did come out easily, at least.

I also took time to compare the DMC Brilliant Cutwork and Embroidery thread #16 with Floche. They look the same, really, except the floche is thinner. It's about half the diameter. While I was at it, I checked and #12 of the Brilliant Cutwork thread is about double the diameter of #16. But the sheen, twist and look of the threads are very similar.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Photoshop play

One of the comments from my recent Photoshop post had me playing with the full, uncropped circular plant design.I really disliked the red woodchips around the plant so I made them green. I used an extracted layer and various image adjustments.I think the darker background enhances the plant forms and shows off the circle. That's why I made the changes on an extracted layer. I can manipulate the two areas separately.Here I've played a bit with the color. While I think it highlights the tangle of stems, I'm not really thrilled with it. I like the burgundy hints.A different color view. I added in more shadows. It just looks rather dead to me--graveyard.I tried to keep the colors somewhat realistic until this one. I used three layers, one a black and white threshold-image and the others inverted. I think it shows off the circular shape nicely but I loose the impact of the leaves that I liked.For this very last one I used liquefy moving from a center point out--like tracing the hands of a clock. This feels much more stained glass to me but I can see a bargello embroidery pattern developing. Fun weekend play.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More books

I'm still doing more reading than stitching right now. I think I'm going to get back to stitching soon, though. I'm feeling the itch.

I've begun pulling books from the shelf--which means they're among my oldest books. Most never found shelf space. A few I'm passing on to my sister or sister-in-law. Others I've decided to keep. I reread this short book last weekend. I find it an enjoyable and interesting journey. I think the lesson I get is that I need to pay attention to that little inner voice.

I'm still reading this book. It's denser than I'd remembered. I don't think I actually read it before, just browsed it off and on. The focus is most definitely on ethnic textiles done by traditional peoples. I previously mentioned it here.After the country-by-country stylistic/materials survey, the author discusses symbols used in the embroideries. First by type (protection, sun) and then by religion to explain the types of symbols found on ethnic embroideries and how they evolve and abstract over time and distance.This kantha was used for weddings. Isn't it amazing? It just blows me away.Looking back at my books, I realized that I got into embroidery pretty much by way of sewing and clothing. Much of what I did early on was clothing for me and for friends. Some of my early projects included embroidery on the garment.

This is one of the first books I got. It's not large but for a long time it was the classic on ethnic clothing. (sorry for the glare, I took these before the sun came out this week.)I followed Cut My Cote with Five and Plus Five by Yvonne Porcella. She became quite an influence on my aesthetic. I always thought of her as fearless--she was doing what I wanted to be doing. Five is a book how to make five basic ethnic tops that are perfect for embellishment. Plus Five contains five "over-tops" (coats) to go over the first five. Or they can stand on their own. Also perfect for embellishment. The books are short and to the point--get the fabric and get going.She followed these two books with the following two that use the same patterns. These guide the wary into how to use the ethnic patterns--they're full of ideas about what you can do with the basic patterns. Pieced Clothing and Pieced Clothing Variations.
My problem with them has always been that these patterns are simple and striking and very versatile but they are just not made for short and wide body types. The drape wrong, they pull, they aren't flattering. And quilted clothing can be a disaster unless done really, really carefully. So, I looked (and observed and learned) and made some for friends, but never made any of this clothing for myself. I did use some of the ideas in other projects. I have a couple more of her more recent books, too. This is another of my early books that really influenced me. It features costume from the Middle and Far East from the American Museum of Natural History's collections. The book has both photographs--and by the time this was produced, more color was being used--and line drawings. I have a lot more on ethnic and other clothing, fashion, sewing, and the like. These are just my oldest that I pulled down to enjoy once again. (these are all keepers)

The clothing of an area is inextricable from the lives and work of the people wearing it, the climate, the economy, the society. Just this one small study can teach you a lot about everything about a society. Plus, it's way cool to look at.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Yesterday's bright blue leaves reminded me that this weekend we went to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. We really enjoyed it, in spite of our worries (we're not Tim Burton fans). I particularly loved the costumes. I'd like to see it again.

My friend Jenny's article, "Lewis Carroll's Shifting Reputation," has been published in the Smithsonian Magazine. It's up on their website. I really enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What I do with some of these images

Much of the time when I take pictures, I just like the image and have no plans for it (the leaf at the bottom of yesterday's post). Other times, I think about how to develop the image into embroidery (that textured mossy twig from Monday's post).

The neighbor with the rocks, from yesterday's post, has a plant that's intrigued me all winter. It was lush and green, of course, all summer, with big, striking leaves, but I find it far more interesting now. It's circular form, tangled stems and striped leaves remind me very much of the work of Dale Chihuly. First I find an interesting section and crop it. Here I like the juxtaposition of the smooth, solid colored maple leaf peeping out from under the curling, shaded leaves.The difference here is kind of subtle and easier to see with the two images enlarged and side by side. The striations in the leaves are a little more emphasized here and the color flattened a bit. This one is just an inversion in Photoshop of the previous image. Even if I don't like the colors, I find that inversions help me see the design lines and not just the image. It's easy to get lost in an image and lose the overall composition. Most everything I do in Photoshop is done in the Image>Adjustments menu options. If I don't like a change, control-alt-z will return the image to the previous step.
This, I think, is my favorite. It has all the aspects I like but with a more subtle color palette. I really am intrigued by the stripes on the leaves. I played with Photoshop layers to subdue the remaining bright turquoise at the bottom.

Giveaway Winner! Next giveaway

I went to last night and let them pick from the two comments on the last giveaway of goodies from the Nordic Needle. They picked #1 so Karol gets the prize. Thanks for entering.
(Alena: please send me your address, too--I'll find a consolation prize for you.)

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the new giveaway will be this Celtic Knot. It's from a Welsh company, not Irish, but the spirit is right. (I actually bought it in Wales!) If you are a fan of Celtic design and like counted cross stitch, you may enjoy this project.Please make a comment to this post before the end of March if you want to be included in the draw ( for this kit. I will send it anywhere in the world. I will draw the winner on Thursday, April 1st.

I do ask that you include some way for me to contact you directly. If your blog profile includes your e-mail address, direct me there--that'll work. If not, please e-mail me directly or include a spelled out or otherwise uncopyable address in your comment and I'll use that. I cannot go looking for you and if I can't reach you easily, I'm going to have to skip you and I really, really hate doing that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More from Sunday's walk

One neighbor has huge boulders outlining the edge of his property. Their reddish, bluish grays, and ochre colors have inspired some of my color schemes over the years. After thirty years of walking by these rocks, we can see the changes time has wrought. Some are newer but many have been in place for the entire time.How's this for the "Wearin' o' the Green"? Another very mossy tree trunk. In spring the moss gets very bright and very dimensional--wee little forests. I always appreciated that St. Patrick's Day comes in the spring when the world seems to don green in his honor.This twig below attracted more lichen than moss.This is more of an autumn image, but I just loved the way the leaf sat over the border of the concrete walk and the grass. It was in perfect position. It's surprising to me how little the leaves deteriorated over the winter. Especially the oak leaves are just like the were when they fell from the tree. Makes me think twice about other less-natural discards. If leaves take this long to decay, what about plastic?

Monday, March 15, 2010

signs of spring

I didn't do much stitching at all last week, so I took my camera with me on my walk on Sunday so I'd have some pictures. I have done a bit, here and there--a little on my cross, a little on my crochet bag, but not enough to look much different from the last photos.As the snow retreats loads of things are uncovered. Some are lovely, some unsavory (lots of hidden trash, but also hidden treasure). The brilliant pink here is rhubarb coming up in our back yard. (I wonder what kind of a dye rhubarb would make? It's a great color!) Below are some irises, tulips and daffodils.The bark below was, of course, vertical on the tree, but as I uploaded the photo, I realized that if I turned it, it made a great landscape. (Can you see it, too? Of course, it could just be the time change (I HATE daylight savings time) or the new moon...) What intrigued me about the tree was that one half was plain and the other half very mossy and there was a clear demarcation between the two.It's been rainy and damp lately and this bit of bark is abloom with mosses. It's just amazing!In addition to taking pix on Sunday, I also brought something home with me. The melting snows revealed a neighbor's lawn to be covered with shreds of blue fabric. I'm assuming a run in with a lawn mower. Some even migrated across the street. I left a lot for the birds.

They've wintered interestingly--the centers of the fabric have darkened but the frayed edges are pale (which does not show in this picture). Some bits have soaked in mud. I gave them a bit of a rinse and laid them out to dry. They make me think very much of Jude at Spirit Cloth. Blue fragments.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thank You and back to the books!

I finally have a photo of this. I won this wonderful kit for a Japanese Thimble from World Embroideries. The base is made and the stitching begun, so I can follow along. So far anxious about beginning so I'm reading up on making Japanese thimbles. I love these colors.

This has been one of those weeks at work. I begin the day with a list of things that need to be done and never even get to start on it. I spend the day fielding all the stuff coming at me. So, I'm not stitching in the evenings but crashing--and reading.This is my current book I'm reading. It begins with a survey in photos and words of the general types and styles of embroidery around the world. An Identification Guide. I'm still in that section and haven't read beyond. It's necessarily survey-like, broad but not deep, but still interesting. There's a photo of a kantha with stars on it that has my fingers twitching. My attempt at a photo didn't come out at all (glare on an almost all white picture).This is my current book to browse when I don't want to read. I find it very inspiring. It's another book I got used, from a friend, not all that long ago. A product of the 70s, it's mostly black and white, which is a shame. It would be wonderful in color but I've noticed most books from before the 90s had very small color sections.While I didn't own it until a few years ago, I had read this book back when it was new. In the upper center of the photo above is a design with sliced shells and vertical stitches that has always stuck with me. The book focuses on embroidery for clothing and covers design, materials, and techniques.
The textures here are marvelous. I've been tempted to print this and color it in.Some of the text on designing is here. You can see how the author evolves a motif from the frieze on the upper left to the blouse on the right.

I wonder if others are as stylistically at home in the styles of their youth as I am with 70s?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Commission

Recently my friend Marge brought me a project from her church. They wanted an altar cloth to be embroidered to coordinate with the cover above. Isn't it just lovely? Trailing and seeding are the stitches used. It's a very nice linen, beautifully finished over some sort of board (heavy cardboard?)

She had the altar cloth they wanted the design on. Right now I'm just doing the outline. After the committee reviews it they will decide whether they want the interior embroidery done, too.
I made a pattern from folded paper and used a dressmaker's chalk to trace the outline. As it brushes off, I just go over it again. The fabric of the altar cloth is a polyester and rayon blend. I saw that and kind of winced but it's actually a good fabric for this. Slightly sheer but with good body. It shakes out hoop marks. And, most important for me, when I unstitch it's invisible.

I'm also using trailing. The cord is two strands of DMC perle 8. The overstitching is done with DMC Brilliant Cutwork thread #16. My outline is much stronger than that of the model. I did that because they wanted it plain, with no seeding, so it has to stand out. Also, this is a much larger piece of cloth--a very fine cross would be lost. I hope they like it.

I forgot how very hard it is to keep the thread exactly where I want it on the design line. Otherwise it's going along okay. I have to be careful about beginning and ending--anything off of the design line will show through.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

forgot to take a picture

I finished the dreaded brown teddy bear but completely forgot to grab a pix of the beast. Drat!!Oh, well. It's done! Yay!Last night at Homewood Embroiderer's Guild, I won this prize. We're trying to be more ecologically conscious and use fewer disposables, so those who bring their own (hopefully embroidered) cup to meetings are allowed to put their name in to be drawn for a prize. Jane took pix of the cups and posted them here. The guild meeting was fun. We have one returning member (after a long hiatus) and one new member, which is great!

Mostly life is boring right now. There are signs of spring. Work is busier than ever. But I do have one fun project in the works. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I've noticed several midwestern bloggers reveling in the sun today. Last night I saw stars! I haven't seen stars in ages. Today the sky was a clear blue and I am not wearing boots!

I'm back stitching, some. First Thursday mornings is the Japanese Embroidery class at the Hyde Park Art Center. I lost a piece of my frame stand (I left it at the art center and didn't notice for a month, so it's gone!) and haven't gotten a replacement, so I worked on my Oriental needlepoint (shown here, the design with the black background). We had two other needlepointers, a knitter and four people working on Japanese Embroidery. Ruth gave a great lesson on pasting up a finished design. I'm working on the or nue leaves in the needlepoint design. They're tedious (but the effect is worth it). I completed two leaves this morning. I'm still taking my morning walks. It's easier now that the walkways are mostly clear. I have some rules now. (My husband will tell you I always have rules!) I get up, dressed and head out--no sketchbook or camera and no glasses--Just me. I can see okay and the no-glasses made sense on snowy days but now I kind of like the just-out-of-focus view. Down the street to the corner, cross, up to the other corner, cross and back home. We're on a small hill, so it is up and down. I have to watch my step, too--we're an old neighborhood with lots of trees. Big trees that have heaved up the sidewalk here and there.

Last weekend I completed my walk, went in and grabbed the camera and went out a bit. I'm learning a lot about the many textures of snow. (This morning it was crystalline with the nappy texture of suede.) I had watched this leaf gradually melt into the snow over the course of a week. It's gone now--this was an unshoveled part of the sidewalk and foot traffic has erased all sign of the leaf.
These are the bushes in front of our house. The snow was icy around the edges and sparkly. It didn't photograph too well, but the photo acts as a memory aid to me.

I'm finding I'm about 50/50 observant of things around me and looking-inward contemplative. I don't have any goals (or rules) about that. I am amazed each morning by how loud the nearby expressway is! Yikes! I never really noticed before.