Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Still Here!

As I bet you've all guessed, I've been in a MAJOR stitching rut this year.  Why?  The usual. . . .I'm either avoiding some stitching I SHOULD be doing (and end up doing nothing) or (major reason) I get to a point where I need to either make a decision or tackle something I'm not terribly good at. . . and again. . . . react by going into paralysis mode.

I finally did manage to finish something, though. . . this little flower design on a pre-made mini-denim bag.  These bags are available for just a few dollars at our local Hobby Lobby, and I'd been thinking about stitching on them for while now.

I started working on this sometime last fall as a possible EGA program this year.  Fairly quickly, though, I realized that working ALL those woven petals got really tedious really quickly.  And that is not a good thing for a program designed for a variety of stitchers with a variety of interests.  So off it went into the mountainous UFO pile.

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled it out again -- all that was left was half of one flower and the bigger leaf, so it was just a matter of sitting down and finishing it off.

This project was inspired by Pat Trott's Three Dimensional Embroidery Stitches book and by a daisy wreath project designed by Manya at Humming Needles

The main technique is a woven picot leaf technique used to make the white daisy petals. 
The photo shows the instructions for this in Pat's book. 

This creates shapes that are only attached along the one short side, as shown in this picture.   Since the little bag is an item that will get fairly hard use, I went back and tacked the petals down. . . . but they still retain a nice dimensional feel.

The flower centers are created by working French knots in two different yellows on a small piece of muslin.  After doing the embroidery, the little round piece is cut out with a small fabric margin, you run a row of running stitches along the outer edge, and gather the margin to the back, then stitch the whole thing down onto the fabric.   You can see the yellow center piece before it's applied in the photo above, and here it's being tacked down.

I also liked the spiky little leaves, which are stitched in fly stitch.  I thought it worked really well for the smaller leaf. . . but doing the larger one got tricky. 

Although this didn't work out for an EGA group project, I'm pleased with the results.  I'm thinking about putting a piece or two of Velcro as closures.. . . or possibly a button and loop closure.  I rarely am organized enough to change out purses to match my outfits, but I think this little bag would work well as a mini pocket book in a vacation type situation or as a stitching project bag for a small project.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Striped Leaf

It was a dark and stormy night. . . . when what should appear on my computer screen. . . but a query from a Facebook friend about The Mystery of the Striped Needlelace Leaf . . . stitched yea these many years ago. 

The leaf itself has survived for centuries. . . but how exactly did it come to be stitched?  Stitch detectives pulled out magnifying glasses, enlarged photos, and proposed multiple theories.

My theory was that the chevron striped pattern was created in a single piece by following the angle of the outer couched outline.  I based my theory on (1) it seemed like the easiest and quickest way to work and (2) in this photo at least, it looks to me like the stripes on either side of the center line line up exactly, which bolsters the theory that they were worked as a single line.  If the leaves were worked this way, the center line seen here is simply a vein applied as surface stitching, possibly to help hide a slightly messy area in the center where the direction changes.

But mine was not the only theory.  Kim of Baroque Embellishments -- who is a truly expert stitcher and designer -- thinks the two halves of the leaf were worked separately and then stitched together.  And she pointed out a photo (from the same historic mirror surround) where the color changes from one side of the center line to the other. . . indicating that this leaf, at least, must have been stitched in two parts.

The plot thickens!  So it was time for some hands on detective work.  Could a similar leaf be stitched as a single piece. . . and would it look sort of like the original?

Step 1.  I made a quick tracing of a leaf and applied it to a ground fabric.  There is a special blue plastic-like film for this (used for needlelace), but I usually use an easier-to-find modern substitute -- clear self-adhesive shelf liner.  However yesterday, I couldn't find the shelf liner, so I used plain old clear packing tape.  (The plastic layer helps keep your needle from catching the ground fabric. . . and also means you can use a printed or traced outline without drawing on the fabric.)  Then I couched fine wire to the outline using a yellow thread as shown in this photo.

Step 2.  I began the needlelace with dark green thread (in this case 3 strands of DMC).  At the top you can see how I temporarily secured the starting thread in the ground fabric and secured it to the desired place on the wire outline by running it through the couching stitch.  Another important thing you can see is the red couching thread that I will use to stabilize the stitching thread as I work.  Most importantly, the return (what will become the cord of the corded buttonhole) is couched in the center to create the angle I want to create in the stitched pattern.  As I worked, I also sometimes couched the thread at the outer edges to help keep the thread in place as I followed the curved outline.

Step 3.  In the first photo below, you can see one row of completed detached buttonhole and the return for the second row.  Although it's not super clear in the photo, this return is also tacked down at the center with the red couching thread.  In order to keep the thread where I wanted it at the outer edge, in this case, I also tacked down the thread before I began the buttonhole stitching.  (You can see this near the bottom of the photo.)  You can also see how I modified the height of the stitches  in the first row just a little to make the rows of stitching more straight  (while the wire outline is more curved).

A quick aside - I initially thought I might have to couch the thread at the center line as I was working the buttonhole stitches as well.  But in this case that was not necessary to keep the angle sharp. . . but it might be if you used a different needlelace stitch.

The second photo shows that second row completed.

Step 4.  To continue, I just repeated the same technique with my other colors.  Here you can see the first rows of light green and bright yellow.  As I worked, I kept 5 needles active -- one tapestry needle with each of the 4 leaf colors plus a sharp needle with the red couching thread.  When first starting a new color, I secured it to the ground fabric with an away knot.  When I was ready to move to a new color, I parked the old color off to the side...and either wove it through the stitches round the outer edge or whipped it along the wire until it reached the right spot when I needed that color again.  Those parked threads will eventually get secured and covered by the final buttonhole outlining of the finished shape.

Step 5.  I simply repeated the color pattern until the leaf was complete.  Here you can see the leaf as I've finished the buttonhole filling and have just started cleaning up the outer edge by doing a buttonhole outline of the entire leaf.  As I go around, I'm catching the thread ends under the outside row of buttonhole stitches.  Looking at the finished leaf below, you can see how effective this technique is in getting rid of LOTS of threads.  This would be even more critical if you used a needlelace stitch that is only stitched in one direction and so would have starting / stopping threads with EVERY row.  Starting and ending a new thread for each row doesn't present a big problem because it's just buttonholed over at the end.  (In the original photo, look how "fat" that outside row of stitches is. . .   There are multiple possible reasons, but as my experiment shows, you can catch a lot of loose threads under that buttonhole edging.)

Finally, here is the finished leaf.  To my mind it is close enough in spirit to indicate that at least some of the historic leaves could have been made this way.  The angle in my leaf is not as acute as the historical example, but that's basically because I didn't have the photo in front of me and was aiming at about a 90 degree angle. I don't see any reason the angle could be made larger or smaller. . . depending on what you want.

What my leaf does NOT account for is what you can see in the second photo at the beginning of this post pointed out by Kim.  So certainly some of the leaves had to be made differently.  Maybe they all were.  But I was quite satisfied by my experiment, and when I do similar leaves I this is probably how I'll stitch them.

Mystery solved?  The case remains open.

Happy 2013

Sorry about lack of posts for these many months.  I just wasn't in the mood. . . and blogging is supposed to be fun, right?

Stitching progress has likewise been at a low ebb.  But other nice things have been happening.  Here's a picture of an absolutely beautiful church where I sang at a friend's wedding this past Saturday....and no, I didn't make a weekend jaunt to Europe.  This is Old Saint Mary's church in downtown Cincinnati. 

I also -- at the VERY last moment -- finished this little piece as a wedding gift. . . which some of you may recognize as the same pattern I used for a wedding gift for the son of a friend last year.