Friday, July 29, 2011

Somewhat Crewel Friday

I've been working pretty diligently. I've been reading all of the library books--bouncing from book to book, I've stitched a bit on my sampler--nothing much to show, some lines and two laid stitch squares to be overlaid with filling stitches, and I've begun working on the second pocket, mostly the buttonhole stitch opening.  That last is what I'm going to discuss here.
Above is the diagram I used for my first pocket opening. It is from the "technical and miscellaneous hints" section at the end of Mary Thomas's Embroidery Book. It is called a Tailor's Buttonhole.  I found it difficult to keep the "purls" even and very hard to keep the plain edge even--unlike most blanket stitches, with this stitch you come UP at the plain edge. I finally stitched a split stitch row along this edge and it helped a lot. This is also the stitch diagramed in the 1913 8th edition of Needlework and Cutting Out by Walter and Strachan (I posted the cover last week).
This Tailor's Buttonhole stitch is from Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. It's in the main section of the book and is quite a different stitch--a basic blanket stitch with an extra wrap around the needle. This one was much easier to do, although I still had trouble making even "purls." This one also went much faster.

Below are several pattern sheets from two of my library books, both by Louisa F. Pesel: English Embroideries I: Double Running or Back Stitch and English Embroideries II: Cross Stitch.  Ms Pesel drew the designs from antique samplers (mostly 17th Century) and embroideries from museum and private collections. The charts are hand drawn. 
The first two are from book I and the last one from book II.
These books didn't do much to further my research into crewel embroidery but I'm glad I was able to read them and scan some pages for inspiration. 
Ms Pesel encouraged stitchers to take it and make it their own, to be creative.
She also was enthusiastic about encouraging English style and techniques, pointing out that the Danes had Hedebo, the Italians Assisi, etc.  She felt the British had a long and illustrious history of embroidery to build on and was concerned about the loss of this in the future. 
Both books were published in the early 1930s. 
An interesting publishing note: these were British books by a British author, "made and printed" in Great Britain by Morrison and Gibb Ltd., Tanfield Edinburgh--but published by the Manual Arts Press of Peoria, Illinois.  So far I haven't found out anything about the company except they seemed to be a prolific publisher of books on manual arts and crafts in the early 1930s.  I'm intrigued. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We've seen an unusual number of movies this summer. We go to the discount matinees, usually the first show around noon. Often the theater is nearly empty.

Of course, the most awaited one was the final Harry Potter. We went first thing on Saturday of the week it opened (and the theater was far from empty). I was a bit anxious and pleased to find that while they condensed the story quite a bit, they got in all the important bits.
They got it right.
We prefer science fiction/fantasy/fun movies. Not too graphic (in the violence sense). Marvel comics, Jackie Chan, sometimes Disney.  Over the past few weeks we've enjoyed Green Lantern and
Captain America.
And we're looking forward to Cowboys and Aliens.
It's nice and cool in the theater.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finished object, WIP and gift

I think I may have been overwhelmed by all of the books on Friday because I just kind of shut down for a bit on Saturday. A four-hour long nap helped.  And a total change of pace.
I purchased the kit to make this felt cake-slice box from Sun Felt a couple of years ago at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago and it had been sitting, waiting all this time.
I had completed the white cake slice right away. So I dug it out and stitched it on Saturday.  They come ready to stitch with all materials, including a nice box to hold the completed cake slice.
The instructions used a lot of glue but I just can't mange glue neatly so I stitched everything. I think they're fun and silly. I have materials and want to make some felt chocolates.
Since the weather was predicted to be bad, I figured I'd be staying in so I set up to stitch on the Japanese embroidery piece.  I actually accomplished a lot (for me and JE).  I padded and stitched the entire striped cord loop at the top of the brown paper on Saturday morning.  On Sunday I stitched the more central of the two "pinks" (which are orange and white) along with the two leaves just to the right of it.  Bit by bit it's getting done. I also made up my white velvet pillow, used to dust and clean the piece as part of the finishing process (or anytime you feel your piece needs a bit of a dusting).
Last, but far from least, hubby found this lovely little crocheted hat pin cushion at an antique shop as a gift for me.  It's small enough I may add a pin back and wear it.  I have a couple of them and I made one (much larger) for a pin cushion so I guess that's a collection.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

more books

I recently pulled my copy of this book off the bookshelf to review something or other and found a delight inside (beyond the contents of the book, which never cease to inspire).
I'd saved a couple of pages from the Aardvark Territorial Enterprise from California from the 80s. This company was a delight--they put out a newspaper/catalog full of amazing odds and ends (it's where I first learned about the fun that could be had with sequin waste, shisha mirrors), commentary, designs and general enthusiasm for needlework. It really helped me expand my boundaries and realize that you can often find embroidery materials or inspiration in the most unlikely places--it opened my eyes!
The clippings brought back wonderful memories of a wonderful time and person. I used to pour over each issue as it arrived and I used to have many copies saved. Sadly, I can't remember the owner's name. I do remember she died suddenly in a car accident and while her daughter tried hard, I think the owner was the heart and soul of the business.
Do any of you remember Aardvark?

Friday, July 22, 2011

I am excited! Crewel Friday...

A research librarian I consulted downstairs (thanks, Connie!) found this book in our library collection:  "English Crewel Embroidery Motives and Stitchery of the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries" by Miriam Sollau McCurdy. It is an unpublished (as far as I can tell) dissertation for a Master's degree from December 1935. It's at home, full of post-it notes, so I don't have a picture of it (not much to look at, it's a plain cover with a bound, typed manuscript.)  One great part of the manuscript is its bibliography.  I'm so excited.

This book is much more visual.
It's one of the eight (yes, eight!) books I found in our library collection that were mentioned in the dissertation bibliography.  I'm in book heaven!
This book is aimed at teaching children in the classroom practical knitting and sewing. It is from 1914; the original edition is from 1897.  It is full of "drills" with very specific instructions and steps for both the teacher and student--how to put on a thimble, thread a needle, pick up and hold the fabric. It's very nicely illustrated with red and black drawings. With it's two-color printing and many illustrations, I'm sure this book was quite cutting edge in its time.
I love this needlework apron.  In the back there's a lovely fold out for making a sewing sampler with tucks, gathers, bands, gussets and tapes.  It includes a scalloped embroidered edging, darning, patching, cross stitch marking and some embroidery. A whole lot of the book is about mending, darning and patching. I think we need to get back to that reuse-it mindset.
My scan of this book came out with the top cut off.  It is "English Decorative Fabrics of the 16th-18th Centuries" by A. F. Kendrick, published in 1934.  It smells like book--not musty, but like, well, book.
I love that smell.
The book is on heavy paper with big type (my eyes are happy). Half is text and half black and white photographs, many from private collections.  I've already found some good material.

Three more books arrived on my desk late today. There is a two volume set, "Patterns in Western Europe: 1180-1900,"  by Joan Evans and published in 1931.  The index shows some promising listings.  For visual reference, I borrowed "Chinese Art: An Introductory Handbook to Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Textiles, Bronzes and Minor Arts" by a whole bunch of people (Fry is the first name) and published in 1935--just in time to be a reference for the thesis. 

I haven't been stitching this week--it's been a busy week so far--I've had two evening guild planning meetings. Two visiting scholars arrived from China  to work with one of our faculty members on translating a book he's writing. They've made my life very interesting--in a good way.  And I'm being dripped on by our over-worked air conditioning system. Hopefully that will be remedied tomorrow by some sealing tape. (I noticed the building engineer didn't say duct tape, but I'm sure that's what it is.)  It's still very hot here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Recently while cleaning I found a couple unused Border's Gift Certificates (one of the benefits of occasionally sorting through the piles!). I knew I'd be going by a Borders one evening on the way to a meeting so I tossed them into my purse.
Making is a British magazine I discovered on my trip to London. It's young and has interesting projects for all types of crafting and needlework. They're often simple projects (but not "dumbed down"), in classic style and nicely done. (I think Europeans tend to give more credit to their audiences than many American publications do (or did--many are gone now).
Just in time, it looks like, because Monday they announced they were closing and I was told our local store would be gone by Friday. I'll be sad to see them go but in reality I didn't often go into one--mostly in an attempt not to spend too much money on books.
I never checked to see if Molly Makes is British or Australian; I think British--this was a new find.  It has projects similar to those in Making in that they're young and modern, but it has a style of it's own. I love all of the strawberry emeries--and also the descriptive box that explains the original purpose and need for the emery.
Selvedge is one of my all-time favorites but usually too expensive for my budget ($25 per issue). Somewhat like Piecework with a more modern focus, the articles cover all types of textile and fashion related companies, designers, designs and art.  I love the style of the magazine--it's worth it just for the wonderful ads.
I love magazines and I used to subscribe to quite a few but I've decided to cut down on paper flowing into the house and also on paper I'm storing. So I've let most of them lapse and I do miss having something to browse on weeknights when I'm too tired to stitch.
Stitch is an American publication. It's focused on sewing and features great design along with some interesting articles. 
So, I stocked up and used up my certificates (and a bit more!) and had a great time both shopping and then browsing through my finds.
Victoria's a more common newsstand item here--I can find it most places. It is a revival of a brand that closed a number of years ago and I've been enjoying it.  It's not a "keeper" but some of the articles are interesting and the recipes always sound yummy. It's very relaxing, full of lovely photographs of beautiful things and places.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

finishing up

I spent much of the weekend indoors (out of the heat) finishing things up. I ripped back the lace hat to leave only two body repeats and then reknit the top for more of a cap. As it was it covered about half of my ears--either too short or two long. So I made it shorter.  Now it's just above my ears. 
I spent a lot of time lacing the back of "Remembrance" (see previous post), covering the back with fabric, and adding clear beads to the fringe. It really doesn't look much different from the front but it feels finished now. I added a buttonhole loop for a hanger--the piece is as light as a feather.
And I felted the entrelac diamond tote. First in the washing machine and drier with hot water and a load of towels, then by hand with my scrub board. I worked in the basement tub and was soaked by the time I was done but, as I mentioned, it's very hot here. The finished tote is bulgier than I'd expected--I don't know why because when I looked at the picture, it didn't have the straight sides I'd expected.  The colors of the wool ran, which surprised me given it was a kit and tested with those materials.  I'm okay with it though.  It's finally dry and ready to use. And it's BIG! 
The photo's outlined because I've been having Photoshop woes. Hopefully now fixed.  I couldn't crop.

Friday, July 15, 2011

No crewel this Friday

Sometimes a project just takes over and when it goes well and comes together it's a joy.
This pieced named itself Remembrance about half-way through.  It began in early June. We were at the cemetery, after Memorial Day and after some storms.  The "silk" flowers placed on many of the graves had blown over, been wind and water swept and many had also been mowed over by groundskeepers.

As we moved from place to place (we have a lot of people to visit at this cemetery), I noticed silk petals and fragments among the grass--bits of pink, yellow and blue. And I began picking them up. By the time we left I had a small collection of fabric petals.

After a bit of a wash I contemplated what to do with them. I'd been wanting to experiment with running stitch and quilting, similar to Kantha from India, and I've been inspired by Jude's whispering. I pinned them to an old hand towel with a knit lace edging but decided I wanted more layers and the towel shape just didn't feel right, so put them away again. I liked the idea of a sheer fabric over the flowers.

A couple of weeks ago I wanted some silk for avocado dyeing so I went over to Vogue Fabrics. I thought I might find a sheer there, too.  I found my silk but their sheers were all polyester and nylon. I always browse their remnants bin and I found a cotton lawn lurking in there (maybe batiste or voile...I can't tell)--not quite a sheer as I'd been thinking but I really liked it's softness.  In the same bin was some pale green flannel--the perfect background. Both remnants were quite large, so no struggling to fit the size.

My washed remnant pieces sat there, in my way, for a couple of weeks until I chose a general size and hacked off a couple of pieces that would fit and put the rest away. (Actually, the rest of the green flannel is on it's way to becoming a baby blanket with a crochet edging).

I spent some time laying my flower bits onto the flannel--it's slight nap held them nicely in place. I was looking for a general size and shape, thinking about stitching patterns and finishing. Suddenly, I realized a Gothic arch would be the perfect shape for what I was trying to do. I cut one from paper for a pattern and traced it onto both of my fabrics.  I arranged the flowers one last time, added the lawn on top and pinned it with many pins.  I decided that my running stitches would mimic the arch. I wasn't sure how to begin the thread so I just left the end dangle while I began to stitch, figuring I'd end it later. But I decided I liked the dangling thread, so I left all the ends to dangle.  I'm going to add clear beads to the threads.

The stitching took only a few hours and the flowers, only dimly seen before the quilting, became more clear (they are really visible when the fabric is damp but I decided not to experiment with mediums or sprays that would perhaps keep that wet effect). 

I cut a piece of foam core to shape and have taped the fabric to it.  It needs a better finish along with the beads. I plan to pin it along the edges of the foamcore to stabilize the embroidery on the backing and then I can trim, stitch and lace the fabric to the foamcore. 

I'm not sure if I'll cut a second piece of foamcore or cardboard and cover it, stitch it to the back and apply an edging or if I'll stitch a cloth backing over the laced piece--I rather like the soft edge it has now so the latter is my current preference.  I also need to consider what sort of hanging device I'll add to the back.

So, it's not quite done. For me, however, this piece came together quickly--it was so nice how things seemed to fall into place without the usual experiments, ripping and struggles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Steam-Power Festival

Last Saturday was a lovely summer day, hot, but there were breezes.  We went to the 27th Annual Antique Power and Steam Show. Not to much steam there this year, and not as many people as years past, but it was a very nice show.  Here's a kiddie ride that went on all day, winding and snaking around the fairgrounds.  Each little barrel car has a steering wheel.
There was a petting zoo, flea market, pie kitchen, and, our favorite, the Parade of Power. Each year they feature a company. This year was Ford and Fordson tractors and Briggs & Stratton engines.  We like to wander around the displays of small and hand-crafted engines that go pockety-pockey; tick, tick, hiss; wheet; click, click click clack--they each have their own noise and it's rarely regular. To me it's the sound of summer.
We got a shady spot in the bleachers to watch the parade of power. The churned up area in the middle was from the kiddie and adult tractor pulls.  We saw the kiddie winner brandishing his large trophy.
This tiny tractor in front is an antique miniature, but even lawn tractors and mowers are welcome and they come from all over, some several hundred miles.  The parade goes on for about an hour, perhaps, with each machine's make, model, year and driver announced. 

We ate in the main pavilion where there was a live singer providing music. I ate from "Spud and Moo"--baked potatoes. I got chili and cheese on mine.  I think I like the British "jacket potato" better--just seems a lot more classy than spud. But then, spud does fit the event and venue!
Inside the arts building is a large model railroad, bee keepers with honey and a table where you can make beeswax candles, tool displays, wood workers, a raffle quilt, and this year a display of toy tractors. Or so I thought.  If you look closely you can see the bodies are all old sewing machines!  I missed it but hubby caught it.  He used a couple of old Electrolux vacuum cleaners, too. 
I thought it was very clever.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Odds 'n ends

Here are the results from my attempt at avocado dyeing.
I wrapped the fabric around quartered pieces of the seed, tossed in some dry peel, crammed it into canning jars and filled them with boiling water. They sat out, oh, four days or so.  The bottom two pieces are new silk dupioni.  The bottom one is a pale peach, nicer than the photo, the top one didn't take on much color at all. The top piece is a piece of antique silk crepe that is pretty shattered.  It took the most color but only in a few places. It's so fragile I'm not sure what I can do with it.

I have rinsed these but not washed them; ironed them damp with a hot iron. I should probably wash them but I'll wait a while.  Perhaps time will help set the color.

I believe the purple color came from fresh pits. Most of the pits I had were dried. So, to try number two, to redo the two new silks, I'm chopping the pits into quarters and freezing them.  Perhaps that will help keep the color.  Good thing we eat a lot of avocados!

Not much else going on that I can show. I'm working on models and ideas for Homewood Guild projects for next year. I made up some more felt nautical flags for Camp Quality models and passed them on to the crafts director. I finished the knit entrelac diamond bag to be felted--I'm about halfway done with the second handle and then I can felt it all.  It still looks like a formless lump.  I'm working on my summer challenge project for Homewood, which I can't show until September. I crocheted a few more rows on my Legal Loopers charity rectangle. So I'm busy but nothing to show for it (yet).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A while back I found a box of things that had been my mother-in-law's.  Some old toy and doll clothes patterns, a couple of cut out doll-dresses in pale yellow, and the cut out pieces and floss for this red and black Scottie dog.
I would guess the doggie was for my husband, the doll dresses for his older sister's dolls. He said his mother liked Scottie dogs.  It is very 50s and very nice wool felt.
So this weekend I assembled the dog. I asked hubby about eyes and he said he didn't remember button eyes but thought they were felt or stitched on, so that's what I did.
I kept a couple of the patterns and gave away the rest.  We'll be keeping this Scottie dog for now.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Me at work!

Last month a friend's parents stopped in and took a picture of me in my office and my friend sent it to me as the cover of a lovely notecard.  (I'm sure mom had a hand in making the notecard.)  My friend is off to Africa for the year and I already miss her. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crewel Friday

My notebook and samplers were returned by the course teacher, Judy Jeroy, last week, along with a very nice letter with some tips, comments on what was well done and what could be improved. The next step is line stitches and filling stitches.  I've begun here--outline and stem, plain and whipped. (the right half is whipped, the left plain). You can see my filling stitch boxes penciled in below. I spent time over the July 4th weekend going through my books and noting stitch diagrams to use. I  sorted through the books and put many back into more out-of-the-way piles. I also made a plan for how I'll stitch the second pocket.
I've begun working more seriously on my paper topic now that it's been approved.  This week I chatted with one of our reference librarians (my office is housed in the law library) about it and provided some suggestions. 

While I was waiting for the package to return to me, I stitched a leaf sampler. The leaves are fairly large, a couple of inches long, and are stitched with a softly variegated knitting wool. I chose it because it has a fairly tight twist so the stitches are clearly defined and it was large enough to work with the large leaf size. And this is more my kind of green than the brighter one I'm using for the samplers. I just used a scrap of twill.  I cut out a few leaf-shaped templates from paper and traced them right-side-up and upside-down then connected them with a meandering stem.
Leaf sampler stitches from top to bottom
I forgot to note down the top one and I can't remember it's name. The base is a woven trellis and then stitches are whipped around each intersection.
Cretan Stitch Variation
Open Fishbone
Raised Fishbone
Romanian Couching

Sources: Fry, Christie and Thomas

Thursday, July 7, 2011

UFOs and FOs!

Over the three-day holiday weekend I worked each morning on my Japanese embroidery. I'm at the point where I want to get this one done and move on!  I completed the hemp-leaf pattern in gold on the brown paper holding the flowers. I had done it once early on and didn't like it at all. I'm much happier with it now. I also completed the leaves for the pinks, the white mum and a bit of iris leaf.
I completed rectangle two for the Legal Loopers and began #3. This one is my version of Tunisian crochet. I say my version becasuse I've read the directions over the years but never tried it and now I'm trying it from memory, with no directions handy.  I like the way it looks, I'm just not sure whether I'm doing it "right."  It's taking longer than #2 but I like it a lot better.  These colors are a little bright for me.
Square #2, below is one row double crochet and one row single alternated.
And I completed the lacy cotton hat.  It turned out bigger than I expected--I checked gauge but in stockinette stitch and not the lace pattern and I think that may have been my mistake there. 
It was fun to do and a great pattern.  (Lotus Hat free pattern by Third Base Line)
I also worked a lot on the diamond entrelac tote. It still looks like the same blob of wool as my last photo so I didn't photograph it this time. But I'm working on the bottom decreases now and also on the i-cord handles.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Miscellaneous Stuff

A new computer with all new programs, including Blogger, is making me a bit wacky. I couldn't post for a couple of days and this is my second attempt at this post. I'm so used to inputting my photos backwards I can't get my mind around posting them in order. 
We've been having some lovely summer days and I headed out into the garden. The day lilies are just beginning to bloom.
This spring I ran across a very old packet of lettuce seeds and decided to give it a go--some actually grew (most didn't--it was old!). So here's some lettuce and volunteer dill in my pot.
The passion flowers are doing their usual thing. My husband collects the seed pods for an Indian friend who uses the seeds for tea or cooking, I'm not sure which.  I had seen his collection and thought about using it for dyeing to see what would happen--I'm glad I didn't throw them into the pot.

I do have sitting on the back porch two canning jars with chopped avocado pits and some silk fabrics. I wrapped the pits in the silk and crammed it into the jars and then poured on boiling water.  I have no idea what I'll get.  I probably won't be patient much longer, but some of the experiments I've read about have left it a week.

Last night, reading a new issue of "Inspirations" (the Australian magazine, I get mine from the Wooly Thread), I discovered an ad for Laraine's of Capri with a website! This is where I got the colorful crewel kits I've been doing. The crewel didn't appear in her shop (my kits were several years old), but loads of other tempting things do, plus she now has a lovely blog.

Camp Quality

Camp Quality Illinois Cruise 2011Our morning to teach at Camp Quality will be Friday, August 12 from 9 to noon. Our project will be felt nautical flags in the letters the child chooses
(my initials are spelled out by the flags above).

We need volunteers to teach on the 12th, volunteers to help cut felt pieces and plan how to lead this project on Tuesday July 26 (location to be determined), and donations of felt and perle cotton and size 20-22 chenille needles.
The felt colors should come close to matching DMC White, 742 Gold, 796 Blue and 321 Red.
It doesn't take much perle so felt is the most needed item.
I'm glad to finally have this one settled and planned. This was the toughest so far to figure out. I have made up a pattern for each letter and I have a small collection of felt and perle (and floss) gathered. So, we're on our way. I plan to make up models to deliver to the Camp Quality organizers this week so they can have them for display.This fish was one of my many attempts at a project for this year. I also charted out all of the alphabet nautical flags so they could be cross stitched (very boring blocks of color). I charted part of a cruise ship to backstitch--it's a pretty boring shape and would be dull to stitch. I tried to figure out an easy to stitch mermaid, but didn't get to far.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Wishing you a wonderful, and safe, holiday

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crewel Friday--it's done!

The front:This project was a bumpy one from start to finish. I don't know why--this is the third kit I'd done by Lorraine of Capri. The fabric on this project is darker than the others and I didn't like the way it showed through some of the stitching, so I did some ripping and padding. Other than that the kits were all very similar. It's done. The silk cording wouldn't twist properly. My third try is still a bit uneven. I measured twice but the book itself isn't quite square. The felt "pages" wouldn't lay straight so I trimmed them and now they're a bit wobbly, too.

The back. I do like the little blue button I found in my stash.The entire outside. (this photo is distorted by the camera angle--it's not quite square but it's not this far off.)and inside, with nifty pockets for needle packets and wool pages.Last, here's the finished needlebook with it's companion pincushion. I finished the pincushion with no problems at all in January 2010. I'm happy with how the needlebook turned out but I'm still a bit baffled by how difficult it was.(Although I have found over the years that the minute I get cocky about my embroidery, I come across a project like this that makes me realize how much I have yet to learn.)