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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tiramisu finished, and GAR mystery started

Here it is! Tiramisu is complete! Click on the picture to enlarge. Again, this is an EGA GCC by Dakota Rogers, stitched on 34ct Cafe au Lait Legacy linen with Vikki Clayton's Steelies. I'm stitching it with the CyberStitchers chapter. The piece will remain unframed until after it returns from the class evaluation. It is due to our class coordinator in July.

At the mini stitching retreat today, the stitchers around me voted for me to start the Gay Ann Rogers mystery design. The Jim Wurth piece will be next though! This pic shows the progress I made today. It's working up pretty quickly, since everything I've stitched so far only uses one strand. This means I don't need to use a laying tool, and can stitch two handed.

To recap my previous notes, I'm using 25ct Pearl Linen in natural with Vikki Clayton's Winterberry 1431.

Apologies and a Stitching Retreat

It appears I have learned my lesson - don't promise a blog post "tomorrow"! My apologies to anyone who tuned in yesterday expecting a post with a finished piece. Life caught up with me and I didn't get a chance to post.

In any case, yes, I finished Tiramisu, but I'm unhappy with the placement of the date and initials. So, today I'll be taking them out and replacing them.

Speaking of today, in about an hour, I'm off to a day of stitching! For the last several years, one of the local sit n' stitch groups has been having a "March Madness" evening, wherein we rent out a conference room at a local hotel, have a buffet dinner, and stitch late into the night. This year, we're changing things up - doing a buffet breakfast, and stitching until 5 or so.

I plan on taking Tiramisu to fix, and both the new Jim Wurth piece and the Gay Ann Rogers mystery to start. Heaven knows I won't make too much progress on either of these, but I've got to have choices, don't I? Why do I always do this - I've got 8 hours to stitch, yet somehow I think I can make significant progress on multiple projects! Am I alone in this, or is it something we all do?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

Since my stitching group meets tonight, I have limited time for a post. Isn't it fortunate that this week's SBQ (Stitching Blogger's Question) arrived in my mailbox?

This week's SBQ, suggested by Cindy, is:

Do you have a system for organizing freebie charts in your stash? If so, what is it? Do you print out copies of all of the freebies that you find on the web (that you think you might actually stitch) or do you maintain electronic copies of them until you are ready to stitch them?
I'm afraid my system isn't very fancy - almost all of my freebies go into one file folder, marked "Freebies" (of all things!). There are exceptions, though. There are a few designers that have their own folder in my file drawers, and freebies from those designers go into these.

As for the second question - I don't generally print out freebies to stitch. If I find one I might eventually stitch, I'll generally save it electronically. Although I think I can count on one hand the number of freebies I've actually stitched in my stitching career. I can't think of any off the top of my head, actually! I tend to like large projects, and that generally doesn't fit into the freebie category, except for an occasional mystery project from some of the French designers!

I'll be back tomorrow with either a completed Tiramisu (if I finish tonight) or another "A Stitch in Time" post. I'm off to dinner with the ladies...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tiramisu Progress

Here's an update on Tiramisu!

This is the full length of the sampler (click on the picture to enlarge!). The bottom band (band 12) is complete, and bands 11 and 10 are almost complete. I stopped working on band 10 because I wasn't sure I liked the lightest value in the middle of the darkest. It seemed that I might be able to better judge the effect once I had the rest of the bands in. I'm still doubtful about that light color, and am debating switching to the second lightest value there.

This piece is on 34ct Cafe au Lait linen from Legacy, using 4 values of Vikki Clayton's "Steelies" series in regular weight silk.

Monday, March 26, 2007

New Stash (including lots of Quaker Samplers)!

Wow! What a surprise at the mailbox today! TWO packages! The first, I was expecting. I've been waiting on the color I'd chosen for Gay Ann Rogers' Redwork Mystery. I'm using Winterberry 1431 from Hand-Dyed Fibers by Vikki Clayton. I was undecided on the fabric color, though, so I did a floss toss:

After a consultation with DH, I decided on the second darkest fabric, which is Pearl Linen in natural. Pearl linen is a 25 ct linen and polyester blend with a great drape and body and fairly small holes. It looks and feels very dense, which I like much better than very loosely woven, stiff linen. The pic at left shows the thread on this fabric.

Also from Vikki, I received the chart for Victoria's Quaker from A Mon Amie Pierre. To top it off, though, I received my order from Criss Cross Row. Knowing that the owner has been dealing with an illness in the family, I wasn't in a rush to get this, but I'm glad it came, since several of these items are going OOP! I received the Ann Trump and Martha Brady Quaker samplers from Needleprint. (My apologies for the glare in the pic!)

Best of all was the last item in the CCR order - Carol Humphrey's Quaker School Girl Samplers from Ackworth. I admit, I had had my doubts, but this book is wort
h every penny. It's 232 pages, hardcover, and 12" by 9.5" with great color pictures on almost every page, with what looks like an amazing amount of research in between. The best surprise was when I took off the dust jacket so it wouldn't get ruined from all the handling this is going to get in the near future. The dust jacket actually opens up to reveal a chart for Mary Thompson's medallion sampler!
That's all for today - I need to go stitch and finish something if I have any hopes of getting to any of these relatively soon!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Stitch in Time: Monrovia

Since I've been stitching for over 15 years, and blogging only one week, there are plenty of past projects to share when other topics don't present themselves. I've pondered for a while about what to call these posts: Back-stitch? Project Flashback? Masterpiece Theatre? (LOL!) I've finally settled on "A Stitch in Time", but I'm open to more creative options, if anybody has a suggestion. This might become a regular feature of this blog. Please let me know if you like it or not!

Anyway, this "stitch in time" post features a piece I finished earlier this year. It is Monrovia, the fourth ornament in Jim Wurth's Dodecagon series. This is a counted canvaswork project, stitched on white 18ct mono canvas, with silk, metallic, rayon, and nylon threads, and glass beads.

If you're curious about counted canvaswork, also known as counted needlepoint, Rainbow Gallery has a very extensive collection of freebie charts. Looking at some of these charts can give you a feel for how these directions are typically presented. This technique is where counted thread work meets canvas, usually considered the domain of hand-painted needlepoint. It's a good bridge between the two styles.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blackwork without double-running

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that the new goldwork heart has a blackwork background. The course booklet encourages the use of other blackwork fillings besides the one given. Since Tiramisu is almost all double-running stitch, I decided to try something different. I knew that while most blackwork is reversible, it may not be identical on the back. For some stitch patterns, the back side simply has a different attractive pattern.

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of Ilse Atherr's Reversible Blackwork, book 1, at an estate sale. (Note: This book was originally published in 1978. My copy was printed in 1983. Apparently Ilse has recently released an updated version.) While I've looked at the book a few times, I haven't actually tried any of the blackwork filling stitches from it. Some of these patterns fit the description above - they are reversible, with a different pattern on the back, and not stitched with double-running stitch. Instead, many of these patterns use a simple running stitch, first at one angle, then another, spaced appropriately to build the pattern. I decided I wanted to try one of these.

In determining which of the 36 patterns to use from the book, I carefully considered the scale, density, and direction of the pattern. I wanted a fairly open background so it didn't compete with the heart as the focus, with a repeat that was fairly large (but not too large!), and didn't really provide any sense of direction (some patterns force the eye to see a heavy diagonal structure, for example). And, of course, I wanted to use something other than double-running. I finally settled on pattern D-6 from the book.

This book is great in that it shows how the pattern is constructed out of running stitches, step by step. After I figured out how many repeats of the pattern I wanted in the background, I had to put in a few basting lines so I could make sure to get it centered correctly. I would find it very distracting if the background were shifted left or right of center, especially with such a large repeat. Here's the progress thus far, with the outline of the heart and the background started.

One of the problems with using running stitches is the difficulty in ending threads. This would really be a problem with this thick metallic (it seems metallic, not real metal) thread. I plan on stitching slanted gobelin stitches all around the outside with a lightweight pearl cotton so I can end these threads in this border. The border is not intended to show when it is framed. Many thanks to my LNS owner for this suggestion!

Friday, March 23, 2007

2 days, 2 packages!

The mail carrier brought new stash both Wednesday and yesterday!!!

First, I received the finishing kit (by Judy Odell) for the Japanese Octagon Box from Chatelaine Designs. As seen in the picture, this kit contains the black dupioni silk for the inside of the box, the quilt padding (what do you call this?) for the box sides, some thicker stuffing and knob for the top, and on and on. It even has a straight and curved needle, a ribbon (though I don't know now what the ribbon is for!), and straight pins! The instructions look very thorough, with lots of great pictures.

Now, I have no prayer of getting the stitching done by the time the finishing "class" (conducted via the Yahoo Group for the box) rolls around, but I've got the stuff to finish it when the time comes! My progress thus far is limited to most of panels 2 & 3, and part of the outline for panel 1. I've obviously got a bit to go before I'll be able to dig into the finishing! Since I've got a bunch of GCC's due in fairly short order, though, this piece has become a bit of a UFO. :(

The second package this week was the kit for the 5th ornament in Jim Wurth's "Dodecagon" series. These ornaments are counted canvaswork designs, available (only as a series) through Threadneedle Street in California. This installment is Hearts & Flowers, and it is overloaded with reds and silvers! I'll start this piece as soon as Tiramisu is finished. I can't rationalize a new (fairly pricey) kit every other month unless they actually get stitched. So far, I've kept up - the first 4 are done, and I've had a blast doing them. I haven't yet figured out how they're going to be finished, though. I'm open to suggestions!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

EGA & more

Last evening I attended my first "official" EGA board meeting for our local chapter (Genesee Valley). I'm on the slate for the June election as 2nd VP. Ok - why 2 VPs, you ask? I can't really say why - it was like that when I joined. The 1st VP coordinates the monthly programs, and the 2nd VP is in charge of education. That means I'll set up visiting teachers, coordinate GCCs, and perhaps help with the programs. After almost 4 years as program chair of the local ANG chapter, I've used up most of my program ideas!

The next few months look like busy ones for our chapter:

  • April - The local EGA and ANG chapters will again present a joint display at the local museum's Artistry in Thread Festival. This year it's going to be a lot more focused on education and bringing in new stitchers than on exhibition of completed pieces, which frankly intimidates a lot of people!
  • May - Our chapter is co-hosting the EGA Mid-Eastern Region seminar in Chautauqua, NY. I'm responsible for coordinating the exhibit. Since the exhibit is only open evenings and at lunch, I'm taking two 2-day classes - Examplar IV from Catherine Theron, and Picnic Hampered! by Kathy Fenchel.
  • June - We're taking a field trip to a local museum. The curators are going to host us in a private room to check out about 1/2 of their collection of samplers (which totals about 100). I'm really looking forward to this. These samplers are not regularly on display.

During the board meeting I was able to make some progress on Tiramisu. I've completed the dark section of band 10 that was half-done in my picture from yesterday.

Tonight, our goldwork group gets together. Right now it's the six of us that signed up for both of the hearts. I don't know if it will continue after we're done with these. Since I finished the first heart, I'll be starting the second one this evening. Strangely enough (in light of my recent postings), this will combine blackwork and goldwork, because the background of the heart is stitched in blackwork with gold thread!

So, no pics for today. If I get anything measurable accomplished on the heart tonight, I'll post a progress picture tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Work in Progress: Tiramisu

My current focus WIP (not that I don't have plenty of UFO's!) is Tiramisu.

Designed by Dakota Rogers, it is an EGA group correspondence course that starts out as a series of exercises in color and design theory. This background allows each student to stitch the second part of the course, a blackwork sampler, in colors of their own choice. The design theory helps to ensure the entire piece is balanced.

I am not using much of the color theory, having chosen shades of blue, as Dakota did, to stitch my sampler. The design theory is coming into play somewhat though, because I'm only using 4 values of blue instead of the original 5. I've found I needed to rearrange the color values a bit to keep the sampler balanced.

Blackwork (or spanish stitch, as Dakota calls it), is commonly reversible. One of the primary stitches used in reversible blackwork is the double-running stitch. The best online instructions I've seen for double-running are from the Blackwork Embroidery Archives. This site is also worth exploring for lots of freebie blackwork patterns. All you need is some countable fabric, some contrasting thread, a needle, and a little bit of patience! And if you don't want to use double-running, feel free to use backstitch - though this can cause shadows if you're using dark thread on light fabric - or running backstitch - which doesn't cause shadows, but isn't reversible (if you care!).

What should I talk about tomorrow? Does anyone have a suggestion?

Monday, March 19, 2007

A bit more about goldwork...

While I was in "happy dance" mode with the goldwork heart (but before I started the blog), I posted a picture on one of the many stitching forums around the net. One of the comments it received was "is this stitching?" I gave a pretty quick answer, indicating that yes, it is, and stating that for this heart, some threads are couched, and others are attached like beads. I thought I might elaborate a bit more here about the threads used and how they're attached. Clicking on the pics will (in most cases) let you see a bigger picture.

(As a side note - do you know how difficult it is to take pictures of gold? The light refracts all over the place, and many times you get just a blur of brightness. Thank goodness for digital cameras and the ability to delete bad pics and play with settings and light until it's right!)

All of the metal threads used in this piece are "purls". They all are constructed like coils of wire, and can be stretched out intentionally for some purposes (or unintentionally, in some cases, as I found!)

The first type, used in the borders of the heart and stretched out for the scrolls at the bottom, is pearl purl. It is shown on the left, and kinda looks like a string of pearls, hence the name. This type of thread is couched, and the couching thread slips between the coils, so you can't see it - or that's the idea, anyway!

The second type of metal thread, used in all three sections of the heart, is bright check purl. This starts out life as a tiny flat ribbon, and is kinked into a coil shape, with flat edges. The result is a really shiny thread that reflects from all angles. It is shown to the right.

To see how much gold thread is wrapped into a very small section of bright check purl, check out this next picture! The two pieces were originally the same size (about 2 mm), but I stretched out the one on the top!
Rough purl (seen at right) is the last type of metal thread used in this piece. This is a very delicate coil that must be handled with care because it kinks easily. It has a matte appearance and can be seen in the outer-most section of the heart.

Both rough purl and bright check purl are cut to the right size (depending on where it needs to go), and are attached like beads, with the stitching thread running through the middle. The picture here is a piece of bright check purl standing on end so you can see that it is hollow. The rough purl wouldn't cooperate and stand on end, though, so you'll have to take my word on it!

When I get to the second goldwork heart, I'll be sure to post about any "new" threads I discover there!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Goldwork Heart I

This piece is an ANG group correspondence course that was discontinued last October. A few of the ladies in my chapter wanted to try it, so we signed up for this and Heart II before they became unavailable. Eventually, we may sign up for the third in the series, now available from ANG. The designer/teacher is Michele Roberts.

The only thing I changed from the original was the use of two pieces of "bright check purl" joining the scrolls at the bottom. The original only used one, and I thought it looked lonely with just one!

This is an example of trying a new technique. I had not done any goldwork before trying this, though some previous projects had called for some bits of metal (not metallic) threads.

While many of you may be familiar with the distinction, I can hear a few of you thinking - what's the difference between metal and metallic threads?

  • Essentially, metallic threads are primarily synthetic materials, like polyester, made to shine like metal. You are probably very familiar with metallic threads. They come in forms like Kreinik braids, Rainbow Gallery Treasure Braid, DMC metallic floss, etc.
  • To be labeled as metal, threads must contain some percentage of real metal. There are different grades of metal threads, depending on the amount of metal content.
Kreinik has more information about metal and metallic threads. To read a bit about some of the available metal threads typically used in goldwork, check out Tanja Berlin's notes on the subject.

If you're curious about goldwork, there are a few designers online who offer beginner's kits. One word of caution - I have not seen these kits or instructions, so cannot say anything about their completeness, but these ladies are well-respected teachers, so they must be doing something right! Check out the goldwork sections of the websites of:
In my searching while writing this post, I came across another blog with a great post on goldwork. Rather than repeat a lot of what she said, I recommend checking out the Needle 'N Thread blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why "Just String"?

Some might read the title of this blog and think it's belittling my love of stitching. It's actually quite the opposite. Here's the story of how "It's just string!" has become one of my mottoes!

It all starts back in high school, when I was dating the boy who would eventually become the man who is now my husband. One day I was watching my now-MIL working on a cross stitch baby sampler. That was the start of my addiction. My MIL put a needle in my hand and introduced me to the wonders of needlework.

Fast-forward about 10 years. Then-boyfriend had since become my wonderful DH, and I was still stitching. MIL had taken a hiatus from needle and thread due to issues with carpal tunnel syndrome, but was once again stitching. My SIL had also started to learn. At some point in any family get-together, our works-in-progress would come out, we would trade advice on technique, and set to work! During one such gathering, my then-BIL (SIL's then-husband!) remarked, "I don't get it - it's just string!" At the time, I just shook my head.

Over the next few days, though, I thought about the second half of his comment. I had always looked for a challenge in stitching (still do, in fact!). I never really understood why some stitchers look at a new (to them) technique and say, "I could never do that." To me, any style of needlework is worth a try, and presents a new challenge! What's the worst that could happen? Most beginning pieces are small (although I don't always subscribe to this!), and I might make a horrific mistake and have to toss the piece. Oh well - I learned s
omething from it. There's no point in being intimidated by a new technique. It's just string!

Take hardanger for example. Yes, you have to cut threads. Yes, all counting before cutting had better be correct. Yes, you have to cut on the correct side of the kloster blocks. But even if a cutting mistake is made, it can usually be repaired. Why? Because the fabric, too, is made of just string. It can be unraveled and rewoven in the place of a miscut thread. Or, in the case of a really big error, the piece can be restarted. While it's disheartening to have to discard something with so much time invested, it's not a catastrophe. It's just string.

To me, a stitcher that is curious about a new technique, tries it, and is dissatisfied with the result, is miles ahead of one who is too intimidated to try it in the first place. The former at least has learned something they can apply to future work, or at least has learned that they don't like the technique, or perhaps aren't ready for it now. The latter has learned nothing - but may still be curious!

So go ahead - don't be intimidated by a new technique, just because it "looks hard". IT'S JUST STRING!!! :-)