Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I took a break this weekend from crewel and worked up some Halloween ornaments.
I used the format of the Christmas ornaments I've been doing (here) and paired orangier wools with olive and dark sage greens. The little spider, above, is beaded. I think I need to learn to cut better bats.
These were all gifts, now in the hands of their recipients.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Surprise Package

I received a surprise box of goodies!
It arrived on my desk at work full of fun things. My friends thought I'd get a kick out of this Marjorie Seedling Plum jam that they found in their wanderings--I am!  I haven't tried it yet.  I brought back a package of Waitrose crumpets last spring and froze them. I think they will be perfect with this jam and some tea. 
I have tried these cookies and they are very yummy--lemony and good, shaped like St. George or the dragon. Most of all, though, I love the box. Along the sides the story of St. George and the Dragon is written.  The princess (with the dragon on her leash) is on one end flap of the box (the other has the knight's horse and opened down). 
This gift is from a young friend who shares my love of all things Dr. Who and it is very much appreciated (I've been wearing it since I got it).  He also included a bright orange Dalek (which I suspect formerly held candy). That Dalek lives on my desk, exterminating any dull tasks that come along. 

It feels a bit odd that I'm the one who got the presents (they actually came a few days ago but it took me a bit to get photos)--today is my brother's birthday--Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crewel Friday--progress

I've been making progress--I don't want to put it down.

I received lesson two back from the instructor, Judy Jeroy, on Monday. She had some comments and areas for improvement in the samplers I sent her and some comments on the notes on the paper that I sent her. Now I have a lot to do--finish the paper, complete my notebook (I have fabric to make a cover for it, too), make up the pockets, and finish the edges of the band sampler.
All I want to do is stitch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Small finishes

These feathers are for the Magic Feathers project over at Jude's Spiritcloth blog.  I've been seeing other feathers appear across the blogs and decided it was time.  The four-patch squares were found in a resale shop ages ago. They're old but not antique; I think one of the fabrics is rayon, the others cotton. Stitched with perle cotton and silk threads.
I completed two more felt snowflake ornaments.  Here are the fronts and below..
...are the backs.  I have piles of felt circles waiting to be ornamented.

For these I used DMC Medici wool thread on the wool felt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fun Weekend!

After a long week of storms--cold, torrential rains, very windy with huge gusts--Saturday dawned calm, sunny and warm.  I had a long awaited lunch with friends planned.
Here we are, dining in Spain! Well, we felt like we were visiting there. We met at Don Quixote Restaurante in Valparaiso for a long, leisurely lunch of soup, tapas and dessert! We had great fun. The food was great and we felt warmly welcomed.

While I was in Valparaiso, I stopped in at Imagine Beads (just around the corner from the restaurant). That stop did not help my budget but I had a great time browsing all of the wonderful beads on display. I brought home beads for a few holiday gifts--the new owner is very inspiring and enthusiastic.  (no pictures because, well, presents)
When I came home I noticed this beauty in the pot on by our front porch. I'm amazed it survived all of the storms and cold. It was really nice to see it glowing there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Crewel Friday

It's started.  It's a lot of fun. 
I would work on it all the time, except I find crewel can be hard on my fingers--I poked a hole in my right middle finger from pushing the needle. Then I remembered I have this great rubbery thimble to use and it helped a lot--not only pushing but pulling recalcitrant needles through. I tend to use a fairly large needle to help ease the thread, and it's quite easy for the first row, but any subsequent rows in close proximity seem to be tough.  Some of this was done in a hoop, some not, depending on how the teacher classified the stitches.

I like working with the very clear outline. I wish I'd done it in a softer color and perhaps a green.  It shows through some of the paler shades of thread I've used. 

My Chinese fortune cookie fortune from a lunch this week said: "good beginnings is half done." The perfect sentiment!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

this and that

Not a lot of finishes this week. I did complete this afghan square for our "Legal Loopers" Warm Up America project.  We've begun holding lunch-time stitch-ins at the Law School for anyone interested in coming (e-mail me for details if you're interested).  Knitting, stitching, even lanyard making. Beginners welcome. I nearly finished this at last week's meeting--I crocheted the last row at home.
Front, above; back, below.  I think afghans should look good from both sides. That's the last of this rather ugly yarn.
I want to begin knitting preemie caps for the hospital but the yarn's in my car trunk and I keep forgetting it. So I began knitting a ruffly baby hat for a gift for a friend's daughter.  It's marinated in my stash for a couple of years now, so should be ready to knit! I'll post a photo once I have enough done that it looks like it might be something.

Below are two needlepoint projects for Homewood Guild that kept me busy the last month. You can read more about them on the Guild blog.
I also began working on some Christmas gifts that I won't be showing for a while.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

relax and recharge weekend

Whenever we feel the need to relax and recharge, our favorite thing to do is to head east into Indiana. We do a circle, heading to Michigan City and the Lubeznik Gallery first. They had a new exhibit up, String Theory by Jözef Sumichrast. I liked the theory behind the art and it made me look at things in new ways, but what I really liked were the shadows it cast.
There was also a photography exhibit in the gallery by Larry Chait. You'll have to visit the gallery to see it. Lovely rural scenes as seen driving by in a car. 
Upstairs was an exhibit called Lost and Found, art using ready made or found objects. I especially liked this exuberant fabric fish. The lower level also had some interesting exhibits by local artists. Now our brains are refreshed and we're seeing in new ways.

After the gallery we head west along the lakefront. At first we're driving through wetlands then we go closer to the shore. The road along the shore is high above the beach.  There's one spot where we can stop (if it's not full) and go down to the beach. 

The wind and high waves kept us up above this weekend. We enjoyed watching the group on the beach parasailing!  One guy would fight his way far out into the water, going diagonally across the pretty high waves, then he would just fly back in to shore. It was amazing to watch and we could totally see why he did it. If you look closely, Chicago is visible along the horizon.
After our beach visit, we drive back through wetlands and woods to "civilization."  The trees here are just beginning to change--it's usually warmer near the lake.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quick crewel update

Sorry, no photos yet. I have been working. I began stitching my large piece, just a little bit. But first, to tame the bag of wools, I bought some deeply discounted metal shower curtain hangers and put a color family on each in order. Boy does that help sorting all the shades of green and brown!  I also wrote a more organized outline for the paper. 

I'm thinking of working toward an E.G.A. master craftsmanship in crewel.  The guide for this course is the same person who monitors the master craftsman program so once I'm done, I'll ask her about it. There, I said it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brauer Museum of Art

We visit this gallery on the Valparaiso University campus often. This month had two interesting shows. They're both on for another month if you can get by.
Henry Diltz took some of the iconic photos of the sixties. I remember seeing some as album covers. It really brought back the times--photos of the Hog Farm and Woodstock, Zappa, Hendrix, Morrison, Mama Cass, so many people I "knew."
We'd forgotten some of the exuberance and reminded ourselves we need that in our lives.
The second exhibit was a delight. I love finding things like this--that I've seen all my life but never really SEEN. Now I'll see each time I encounter a newel post!
There were two large rooms just full of rows of newels. They were identified by style and period but not much more. Each had been beautifully restored. A portion of a staircase showed them in use. The collection began with Mr. Christopher encountered some grungy old posts in shop basement and they reminded him of chess pieces. He decided to collect a "chess set" (and he did--it's there and very cool).  Then he went on to gather more and more of these pieces from demolished buildings. I think it was the massing of them that made it so impressive.  A delight.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A couple of small finishes

Doctors' office knitting.
a white chemo cap from donated yarn for a friend's mother
a silly ruffly scarf for a gift.  Knit with Knitting Fever Flounce yarn.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Warm fall weather

We've been having some lovely warm weather. The plants, animals, and trees, however, know it's autumn.
I remember when this maple tree was planted. It's just across the street from us and even as a little twig, it's leaves captured the essence of autumn. They're almost all dropped now but last weekend they were gorgeous. We enjoy the show every year.
The skies were a brilliant blue, clear. It was amazing against the colors of the trees. This is a neighbor's home.
The light's different, too, in the fall. It's at a different angle and there seem to be more shadows. These are some of the maple tree's fallen leaves.
I have a particular "thing" for golden yellows and grays. don't know why. This is a but more subdued but in a similar vein.
Maple leaves dancing on the lawn. I can't imagine what they get up to at night when we're not watching!
A neighbor planted some late daisies.
I don't know what this large plant is. I've been watching it all year. It's striking.

Rain is expected to night and cooling.  It's mid October and I'm still wearing sandals. I'm happy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Phase II

For Phase II I'm doing Golden Fan. I've changed some of the colors--from black to dark green and from orangy red to winey red. I've also added some possible metallics.
It's not all planned yet.
So, I mounted the diamond patterned silk fabric in the frame (almost as much of a process as finishing) and got it good and taut. Then I began to check the design lines. The stretching often distorts straight lines on manmade objects and it did with my fan. So I used line-of-held-thread to mark straight design lines. We also found that if I followed the measurement for the outermost fan blades and used them for the center blades, the measurement was much too short. So we recalculated the lengths and set the top edge of the fan so it has a nice shape and curve.
This is about when my cold set in and I didn't accomplish much after that. I used the time to complete all of the guidelines for the fan. I observed lessons for others in the class--another student began this piece a while ago and provides me footsteps to follow. I practised stitching between the barely visible guide lines (up to, not through or over). I made a sample of twisted thread (which I know is not twisted quite tightly enough, but will provide a guide when I begin on my own. I padded the edge of a maple leaf. 
Pretty minor accomplishments, but accomplishments nonetheless.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last look at Phase I

This is the back of my Bouquet once all was fixed, pasted, steamed and done.
I cut a piece of foamcore to size and covered it with thin white cotton batting (with scrim). I taped the batting in place and then sewed mitered corners, trimming any overlap. I centered my piece on the front of the prepared foamcore and put a few pins into the edges to hold it in place.
I forgot to take a photo while lacing the first side.  You lace closely, beginning in the middle and moving out to each side.  I laced the selvage edges first then the edges that had fabric extensions stitched on to fit the embroidery frame. I left some of the fabric on the piece, here, to help fill the gap between the edges. 

The last two sides are being laced above. Note the hemostats and spool. I reeled off a huge long thread (maybe 5 yards) the clamped it, leaving it on the spool uncut. The cut end went into my needle. Then I began lacing in the center-the hemostats holding the thread in place.  Then if I run out, I can just unspool more and pull it through to the edge. No knots.  When I get to the edge, I park the thread and then go back to the center, and reel off a little more than what I think I used for the first half.
All laced up tight for framing.
When I cut out my foamcore, I cut it from the center of a larger piece. (you can see my cutting skills need work.)  Now when I go to mat and frame the piece, I have leeway in the size mat or frame I choose.  I cal always cut the outer square smaller. Once framed the piece is flat and supported in the frame. I use this type of double-square framing for all of my needlework. It's great for canvas--really supports it--and if you neglect to add enough extra at the edge for the frame, this solves that problem.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Finishing Japanese Embroidery

I didn't get photos of all of the steps involved in this process, but I did take some as my teacher and a classmate worked on finishing.  First you inspect your piece really closely. This view lit from underneath shows long tails and a couple places where I carried threads on the back where it shows.
This has to be fixed before proceeding.  Also, there's a big gap between the top edge of the paper and the iris leaves. Oh, and one clover stem just vanished into nowhere, incomplete (it matched the design line, but should have been extended beyond).  This was all fixed the morning of day 1.
In the afternoon the entire piece was brushed gently and pounded (not at all gently) with a cotton filled white velvet pillow.  This smooths the threads and gets the dust from many years out. This piece was on the frame eight years!
I didn't get any pictures of the pasting. You mix a wheat paste with water and heat it until thickened and using your finger brush the very thinnest, barely moist layer of it over the back of the embroidery (even the thin stems) making sure you don't get any on the silk fabric. (I tried my best).  Then you brush the back side of the pasted embroidery piece with a barely damp towel, both top to bottom and right to left. 
Next comes steaming. You wet the towel and drape it over a hot iron.  You steam it from the underside, first with the back side facing up and then you turn the frame over and steam it with the front side facing up. You hold the iron upside down just below the frame--never touching the fabric. Occasionally you need to reposition the towel so the wettest area is on the hot plate of iron--without letting the hot wet towel fabric touch your skin, clothes or the needlework fabric. That iron gets heavy!
If you look closely you can see the steam coming through the fabric. The steam is what really makes the silk just glow. It plumps up, smooths out and everyone goes Wow! It also seems to smooth/ease the gold work areas--my piece didn't have any but this piece did.

After this you press the piece very lightly on both sides with a warm iron with Japanese pressing paper (seems somewhat like very light-weight freezer paper), shiny side down.

Then you do all of it again--except for the inspection/fixing and velvet pillow steps. You repaste, rewipe it with the damp towel, resteam both sides, and repress both sides.  Then you let it dry at least overnight.

After that you can remove it from the frame and mount it. Phew!

It seems like a lot but I rather like the ritual of it--rather than pulling it off the frame and jumping into the next piece, there's this segue--you treasure the piece you just did, make it as perfect as you can, really look at the accomplishment, take some time to just enjoy it. I laced my bouquet to a mounting board before framing up Phase II. I felt ready.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's all about Japanese Embroidery

I spent the first day and a half of class finishing up my Phase I piece.  I have some photos of the steps of that for later on but for now...These two shots show the piece after the final steaming. (these two were taken at odd angles to highlight the shine)
It's amazing how the silk just glows!  The finishing takes time but is well worth it.
Here's my phase one piece done, stretched and laced onto padded foam core and ready for framing.

I got phase II framed up and then I woke up sick the next day. I came to class the last two days but didn't stitch much.  I have some photos of my phase two piece and the prep work I did.

But for now, I'm going to bed for a while. I may not be back 'till next week.