Monday, January 31, 2011

Still in the 17th Century...

I do believe I'll be talking a lot about my Jacobean Crewel course. Simply because I'm at the obsession stage and it's just about all I'm thinking about.Right now I'm reading English Domestic Needlework: 1660-1860 by Therle Hughes. It's not dated and a quick search didn't turn one up but suspect early to mid 20th Century. The author has some interesting biases, but unlike most of the books in my collection this is not a book for stitchers but a book for admirers and collectors. And, unlike most of the books for stitchers, it has references and sources. The author read wills, inventories, and other historical documents to determine what embroideries were considered important enough to inventory, what things cost, and, in some cases, who was doing the actual embroidery (the lady of the house, servants, or professionals). I'm learning a lot and finding a lot to think about. I'm also finding it interesting that I know I set this book aside many years ago as far to boring to read. Then I think I was more into "how"--now I'm thinking a bit more about why perhaps.

Still in the same period, I took a break from reading and stitched this lovely little Glittering Snail from Thistle Threads. The design is free on her site, but proceeds from the sale of the materials kit benefit the Fashion Museum in Bath's endeavor to house all of their gloves collection in archival boxes.
The kit had some really interesting silk wrapped wire threads, along with silks, check silver--even the silk backing fabric and floss for the twisted cord trim. I really enjoyed making this project.

We're gearing up for a big blizzard that's scheduled to hit tomorrow. The NeedleArtisans of Northwest Indiana meeting has been cancelled. Wish us luck!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moving back in time...

For the last three months, I've been planted in the 18th Century, reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (so far) in order from book 1 through 7. I finished An Echo in the Bone at the end of last week. It all began when I bought her new graphic novel, Exile, (which views events from the first book from the perspective of a different character than the novel did), and then had the stress fracture in my hip that had me doing a lot of sitting. The books got me through. And made me very happy I live in the 21st Century!

Now I'm moving further back in time, to the early 17th Century. I've begun working on the Jacobean Crewel Independent Correspondence Course from EGA. My book arrived this week. (Is anyone else out there doing this course?)This is the sample project. I have a ways to go before getting there, though. And research to do--I love research. So, this week I've been looking at my crewel books to see what they say about Jacobean design--and where they got their information from (the ether, apparently, they don't list their source material!). I've been looking online for modern designs with a Jacobean flair, investigating natural dyes and what colors would have been available in and around 1600--I've even been exploring what years fall into the Jacobean era.

[It varies widely, I've learned. The Jacobean era is named after King James I who ruled from 1603 until 1625. James 1 belonged to the Stuart family as did his son and successor King Charles I reigning from 1625 until 1649 (until he met an untimely end). The term Jacobean era often refers to the period of both kings. Some take it even further, though, through the period of the Commonwealth (Cromwell and his cronies), through Charles II to King James II, encompassing the years 1603 to 1688.]

I get to do a stitch sampler. I received all three lessons at once so I can plan ahead and I've been thinking of how I want to organize my stitch sampler. A spot or band sampler, a more formal design, or perhaps (my current choice) a booklet with pages to be later bound together. (and, if a booklet, what shape, size, page stuff!) Or maybe pockets. I really like old-fashioned pockets (the tie around your waist, wear under your skirt type that Lucy Locket lost). So perhaps I could do a series of pockets. To be bound together as a book? Whaddya think?

And I'm thinking of topics for a short research paper. Like where did these designs come from? What influenced them? Were they the same everywhere? Why? What types of birds and animals and insects were depicted? Were the colors used in a realistic manner or not? Lots of fun questions. What items other than bed curtains used this style of embroidery--that's what I think of when I think of Jacobean crewel--bed curtains. (which leads to the question of why did they spend so much time and effort to decorate their bed?)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rayon Floss

I finished some more bracelets--these for the kids project--for the YMCA April project. They use mixed beads and memory wire.

On Friday I found a great new project from DMC on their Facebook page (DMCThreads). Both their Facebook page and Blog are well worth following for some great designs and tips. And just plain enthusiasm for stitching.I printed it out and printed the design outline onto Transfer-Eze so I'd be ready to go. It uses DMC's "new" Satin thread. So on Saturday I headed to Jo-Ann's to see if they had this new thread. They did but only in a boxed set. And it wasn't a "new" thread, it was rayon floss.

Now, I have a love/hate relationship with rayon floss. It can be very pretty. It is also a total unrelenting pain to stitch with. But the colors were pretty and I'm a sucker for color and I do like the DMC pattern so I bought the box of floss (six or seven skeins--and I had a coupon to use). And I thought perhaps this would be different.

Nope. First off, the tape sticking the skeins in the box was very sticky and had stuck onto some of the loops of thread at the ends of the skeins--meaning it was a mess even before I got it out of the box. DMC's new long central sleeve helps keep it in line, somewhat. It also makes it impossible to pull the threads out of the skein. sigh... But it still is pretty...Then I made a big mistake. I found a piece of fabric I really wanted to use for the ground, a dark gray almost black. I think it will make the colors pop. But I forgot that the design on the Transfer-Eze is also dark gray and the product is somewhat translucent. It makes the (rather casually drawn) design hard to see.

My choice and I'm sticking with it. Bright light and magnifying glasses help. Practice helps--each time I use rayon again there's a learning curve.

DMC includes a booklet with tips for stitching with rayon floss and, I think, a design or two. Some, like stitch with it damp (even wet) and use short lengths, are essential. Others, like always use three strands for satin stitch, are, well, plain wrong--I'm using one, perhaps two strands, and they fill the design shapes just fine. More would be too much. This stuff is springy and it's hard to control one strand in small areas.

I forgot I was using a water-soluble pattern for my design. Well, I know it will dissolve well when I'm done! So far, my design is intact and if one area dissolves as I stitch it, the remaining parts of the design stay well stuck to the ground fabric. And I can tell, from the dissolved areas and the back that the black does make the colors pop.

So, I'm plugging away and have actually completed a lot since I took this picture. And I'm actually starting to have fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eye Candy

I didn't stitch any of the embroideries in today's blog post. I do reprint them here with the designer/embroiderer's permission. I think it's awesome work.So here they are for your enjoyment. I previously posted some of lin's pieces here. She likes to do intensive regional and ethnic studies and then compile the designs into samplers.This sampler below really got to me--I think it's just great. All motif's she's collected. I know some of my friends really will like it, too. She's a traditionalist so I am pretty sure the samplers above are done with traditional colors. The lovely one below, though...I dunno. I don't think of hot pink as a traditional color anywhere!lin doesn't have a blog nor an Internet presence. I'm very happy she's allowing me to share her work.By the way--this is really fine linen she's working on and counting. I remember using 36 count when I took one of her classes and I think she was using finer then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A while back, before Christmas, in fact, I received a rather overwhelming gift. It actually sat in it's box after I'd first opened it while I figured out what to do! World Embroideries gave me an abundance of Appleton Crewel Wools. What she didn't know was that I had just signed up to take EGA's Individual Correspondence course in Jacobean Crewel Embroidery.I finally had a day to sit and play and I dumped the whole box out into my lap, just for the sheer joy of it. Wooly goodness, indeed! I've always kept my few skeins of Appleton wool in a zippered project case. I took all of the threads, inventoried them, sorted and played. I stuffed my case until it is bulging and then...put the rest back in their box until I can decide how I want to store it all going forward. I certainly have plenty for my samplers for the course. Thank you!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Piles of Goodies

I've received a slew of goodies lately from Jenny in London. She has a wonderful eye for textiles and design. It was partially a Christmas gift and partially just sweetness on her part. I think she gets it from her mother, who often tucks a goodie into the packages I receive. This time her mother sent this lovely cutwork and applique doily/table mat. (I never know what to call some of these beautiful domestic textiles.)A small package arrive first with this--
Isn't this a lovely vignette? I had it sitting out in it's baggie for a while, just to look at. (vintage cotton fabric, floss and thread, and a sewing kit from a hotel.)

Then a huge box arrived, chock full of wonderful things.

Mostly, I am still totally blown away by this collection of wonderful DMC coton a broider thread--not all that easy to find in the U.S. and especially not in color. We had corresponded about it last summer when I learned about DMC discontinuing size 12 from Mary Corbet's blog and my friend found a closeout of old stock in a needlework shop. At the time she sent a wonderful collection of white, ecru and black coton a broider in various sizes--I just checked and can't find a blog post about it--I know I was having trouble getting a decent photo. Anyway, this was a total and very wonderful surprise. It's Coton a Broider size 20 in a rainbow of colors...Sorry for all of the reflections, but I feared if I took the thread out of the bags we would run amok and I'd never be able to stop playing with it, sorting and arranging the colors, planning projects...

To accompany the threads, a perfect booklet on Hedebo--I think these threads would be perfect for Hedebo!There were more things in the box. A booklet that hubby grabbed. I didn't see it close but it looked like car stuff.

The gentleman below popped out of the box. He came over to visit with Dolly but she's having none of it--she's still of an age where boys have "cooties." We call him Reggie from his Regency-era fashion. I think I will make Reggie a friend. He's lovely with a hand-painted face and nicely tailored clothing. We especially like his stylish hat.Some of the other goodies included were this lovely hand-painted chiffon scarf....this 70s colored scarf with sparkly threads throughout (they didn't show up in the photo)--this is one of my favorite color palettes.... my favorite magazine for pure browsing pleasure, Selvedge....and a catalog from a recent Victoria and Albert Museum quilt show that I really wish I could have seen (although I must say that with the personal descriptions I received, this catalog, and the detailed article I read in Quiltmania, I almost feel like I was there!)All of this arrived in the midst of my cold. Even though my head was foggy, I had the leisure to sit and really look over everything and really relax and enjoy it all. Thank you!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not much stitching going on here

I haven't been doing much of anything except try to get over this endless cold. So I'm going to show off some older stuff--the above tea towels are now gifts that have been received. I used the Transfer-eze and I was really pleased with the detail I was able to capture.This Sashiko is a new project taught last month at the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild. For a while it was just the perfect mindless think I could do while sneezing. You can see how each stitch is mapped out for you.We're gearing up for a new group of classes at the YMCA. This is a spiral beaded bracelet we're going to teach to some adults looking for a beading project. It took about an hour and one package of size six beads (I can't tell you how many of these I've made--I taught it at my EGA chapter a couple of years ago and so have done piles of them.) I haven't yet made up the kids' project--a memory wire bracelet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

B.B. King

Sorry for the long silence. I've had (still have) a Very Bad Cold. My recuperation was interrupted last weekend so we could go see B.B. King. We'd gotten tickets last fall for our anniversary so this was our much belated present. I spent much of Saturday and Sunday in bed, but it was worth it.B.B.'s band was on stage for more than two hours! He was there for most of that, playing, singing and talking. It was an traditional blues show with about as much talking as all kind of flowed together from singing to playing to talking. There was a good-sized backup band and each got a chance to strut their stuff.
At one point he invited his daughter, Shirley King, (one of 15 children!) onstage to sing. She is very impressive. B.B. said their working together (he and his band playing and her singing) was unrehearsed. I'm not sure about that--it went together pretty smoothly.The opening act was Guy King--it was a night for the Kings! The opening band was good, too, and got things going nicely.

B.B. King played at the Paramount in Aurora, IL.The weather was clear and we didn't have snow as we'd feared--the show was about a 60 mile drive for us and the trip can be really nasty if it snows. We started going there when my mom lived nearby and we like it--it's much more affordable than Chicago, the theater and the people that work there are nice, and inexpensive parking is nearby.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Late Christmas

On Sunday our schedules all finally meshed and we met at my sister's for the Holiday Feast. I was a bit sad because my hubby was home nursing a very bad cold (Dolly stayed home to keep him company), but it was still great to be together.

Below everyone is getting ready for the gifts and trying to ease their stuffed tummies.

The "rip 'n tear" in progress.

Sartorial splendor.

Some of my haul.

Homemade chocolate sauce.

A warm and wooly shawlette--more like a large collar. I wore it yesterday (I have the perfect top to go with it) and it was nice and snuggly.

A doll to make.--a friend for Dolly.

And some really cool fabrics.

And now it's my turn to have the bad cold (everyone seems to have it!). I'm taking my stuffed head home to steam.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I've done a bunch of towels now using Transfer-eze (I got mine from Wooly Thread). I have a few done I can show now.

Mostly I used printed out coloring pages from the Internet, but for the Muppet's Swedish Chef, I couldn't find one. I printed a color photo in B&W and then used that. I filled in the detail lines that had faded out using a plain pencil on the Transfer-eze. I used the original printout to guide me when I just couldn't tell what was what (his spoon turned into a blob that looked like a fold in his shirt until I redrew the outline). I was quite happy when, as I'd hoped, the pencil lines vanished with the Transfer-eze.Using the photo made the picture I was working with very different from the final embroidery. (The pink at the bottom is not bleeding, it's a reflection of the pink bath towel I have the embroidery sitting was still wet when I took this.)
This is a more traditional coloring page, below. I ignored the black spaces (except for eyeballs, those I filled in) and just outlined the design. Here it is before rinsing off the Transfer-eze.The product dissolved pretty quickly. I used warm running water with a drop of dish detergent and I did rub with my fingers. I have no patience. I found it worked better if I trimmed the sheet around the design before putting it onto the fabric or if I pulled off the outside edges after stitching (not so easy, this stuff really stuck to the cotton towel fabric). Here it is after rinsing.I ironed them dry and they came out very nice. I still have one I'm working on (Kermit). I really like that I don't have to worry about covering each design line completely. They just vanish!

Mary Corbet at Needle 'n Thread did a detailed article on using Transfer-eze with many good tips.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Sorry for being slow to post--I feel like a snail these days. After a couple of months off from my usual activities, both hubby and I now have clean bills of health and I'm ramping back up to speed, slowly.

One of the people I work with turned 100 last week. Also last week, at his request, ordered a year's subscription to The Economist for him. Now that's optimism! He participated in a conference via Skype on his birthday (it was in his honor) and is organizing a new foundation, planning the publication and translation of several books of his compiled papers, and is very excited about a new academic journal he's planning. I can't keep up!

It makes me feel very good to see and be part of it all. (and also makes me feel a total wuss!)

We had a quiet contemplative holiday season. I got back to regular morning walks, helped by the warm weather that left the sidewalks snow free (for now). I really missed the walks. I hope by next week to be back to all my usual activities.

Before I run off to my first EGA chapter meeting of the year, I thought I'd share with you my newest project (at the top of the page). Tricia Wilson Nguyen of Thistle Threads has a new "Needlework Nibble" design on her website and, in her usual very generous fashion, has teamed it with a fundraiser for the Fashion Museum in Bath, England. I visited there a dozen or so years ago and loved it. You can read all about the project, and view tons of gorgeous pictures of the elaborate gloves, on her blog.

The design is a snail done in silks and metallics. The original was on a glove and the fundraiser is to help the museum house all of their glove collection in proper storage containers.Here's my kit, that arrived really quickly in the mail. I am happy to see how complete it is. Lots of interesting new threads to play with!