About Me

Thursday, March 29, 2007


You don't have to be nice. It's perfectly all right to express your distaste. I did for days. I thought I had a good design plan. I had a nice assortment of novelty yarns that, believe it or not, co-ordinate quite well together. And the ground fabric is not that dirty, fulled camel I've been working of late; it's nice wool suiting I found in my yardage stash. The piece just wasn't speaking to me. Ugly was getting uglier by the stitch.

What a disappointment. The visual properties of the individual yarns are completely lost, and there's an obvious disparity in scale. I think I blew it from the beginning with the big, fat chenille. It was one of three yarns I used to create a spiral. Geez, you can't even see the other two yarns -- and no, they not that feathery stuff. The more I tried to add to detract from the chenille centered blob, the worse it became until I reached the point I decided I'd had a good practice (I couched with feather, cretan, herringbone, knotted and up & down buttonhole, etc) and would simply skip the TAST 12 show and tell.

I felt bad about that decision; it didn't seem right to publish okay stuff and omit the less successful ventures. So I changed my mind and took a new look -- you may know how I am about turning things around to gain a new perspective. I went to work again trying to "make it work". I didn't. But despite a total design failure, I had a delightful time couching away and inventing absurd interpretations in my head. And on the positive side, I suppose I did achieve lumpy, bumpy density of texture.

Princess Leia has trouble with Tribbles during a close encounter with a roc chick/pet roc/third or fourth roc from the sun in an anomalous breach of that time-space continuum thingy in a dimension far, far away...

"She's lost it this time!" I can hear the chorus, "Beam her up, Scotty!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I have been so intrigued by the layering, needlefelting and machine embellished surfaces my fellow TAST-ers have been sharing, I had to jump in. Finally. I have a fair amount of colorful rovings, batts, tops and locks that I knew I would use someday. The rovings especially nag at me since I put them away after my first futile attempts and spindling, something I'd still like to learn.

I began with the piece that now forms the top portion of experiment 1. I used a foundation of fulled wool (camel color), overlayed some gauze I dyed with onion skins(peach or light rust), and placed whispers of burnt orange roving in two directions. Boldly I reached for my multiple-needle needlefelting tool and pounced. More
pounces. Imagine my disappointment when I realized the needles just weren't penetrating. :-( I decided they were too fine and reached for the two single needles that came with some starter roving. One needle at a time worked for me. I could add more roving, and was even able to needle down snippets of curly novelty yarn . This was exciting until despite all warnings and precautions , I let my attention slip and stabbed my finger. Vengeance was mine, however, as I broke the needle in my later exhuberance.

Next came a sandwich of natural burlap between two layers of peach cheesecloth/gauze/scrim/whatever. Even with a goodly amount of roving punched in it seemed bland, so I added some fuschia gauze from my newly begun home dyed stash. I small pieces of brandy silk crepe and some thought-I'd-never-use-it synthetic paisley meshy stuff in the unlikely combination of fuschia and oranges. Ohh, it punched in to lend some suble accents.
I did the same with the soon to be top portion. I decided the pieces should be joined at some point. I had these tacky faux pewter pony beads in a matte finish that somehow blended in with the grey yarns and #3 perle. I even had spacer beads to match. I added them more to get rid of them than anything else. And then I had those handdyed toothpicks... I tried to nudge out some of the burlap for variety in texture, and would definitely leave more exposed the next time.

Before I could even finish experiment 1 and started on 2. For this my background is heavy cotton velveteen in light purple. Ironically I bought about 5 yards of the stuff at a giveaway price the same time I bought that crazy paisley mesh (I guess technically it's a fine, loose knit nylon fabric). I hit up my fabric scrap tubs (those 40lb kitty litter tubs with lids!) and tossed on some cotton, silk, the paisley (as much as I could), some scrim and started working with my remaining needle.
Here's where I realized how a machine embellisher could really do the job! I wanted some more texture. See that
straw colored accent? It's from my collection of mesh produce bags. This happens to be constructed from a shiney
synthetic raffia, which had a tendency to disintegrate as I stabbed away with my needle. My sewing machine was already set up with a walking foot and set on zig zag (about as fancy as my machine gets). I made a few random passes to
secure the various layers and hopefully yield a little more textural interest. Just noticed, to the left you'll catch a glimpse of red. That's a bit of plastic netting from a bag of yellow onions. I neglected to mention that my raffia bag once held Yukon gold potatoes! Also forgot to say the stitching in Exp 1 is all crudely rendered up and down buttonhole stitch.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


This week's TAST-y challenge is the Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch. I would never have imagined its versatility, had I not seen examples for myself.
My mini sampler is composed almost entirely in Up and Down Buttonhole. About the only thing not done with that stitch are the French knots. That's right, all the flower motifs! Even the sunburst/dandelion. Trust me, it is identical in construction to the large gold flower below. Have you figured it out yet?
I began with a circle. In yellow wool/silk embroidery yarn I made the outer circle with the up/downs pointed inward. With the same yarn I made a concentric circle, this time the up/downs pointed outward and spaced between the spikes of the outer circle.
I then used a #5 gold perle and also worked the spikes outward. I created the inner part of the circle by making a round of stitches, spikes to the center hole, bands overlapping those of the previous row, and for this I used a varigated cotton floss. The outer perimeter was looking a little sparse, so I used the same floss to shadow/duplicate the outer row.
As I was working this motif, I thought about breaking it down into staggered sections to create petals like in a pansy. I think it's worth exploring later, although it's probably in a book somewhere. I down think the line has to be in an arc; it surely could be shaped to more closely resemble a petal. Another favorite thing I found working with this stitch is playing with the "spikes" which can be made long or short , spread or solid. I especially like how the thread can be made to "swirl" and the baseline can be made to "scallop" or pulled taut for geometric designs. I found it interesting to see how the direction of the stitches changed the looks of my
scrolls, and now I know what to do when I want soft lines only. I've learned another useful trick and that is working buttonhole stitches from right to left. If you can master both ways, it gives more flexibility in the direction you want to work. I've done this in previous projects and found it very helpful to maneuver.
For anyone still pondering how the two big flowers are alike... they are the same, just worked in reverse. In other words, if you work the motif according to the directions I gave above, and if you turn it over when you're finished, you'll see the back side of it is the starburst.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Sunchaser shoo's the Sun away from lands that need rain to places that can bask in its warmth and glory.

Sunchaser is a figment of my imagination, and this is how he evolved. I looking through a pile of cloth I had dyed. I selected this piece of buckram which had softened nicely after its dye bath. The slightly blotchy aqua was a result of my second experiment which was to mix some of the leftover dye baths from my primary dye attempt. I began by placing a blob of thread with trailings that I'd cut off the side of some muslin from the bright yellow batch. The gnarl was just the right shape and size for a focal point sun, so I stitched it down with barred chain, the spikes worked to create rays. At this point I fluffed the trailing threads and let them fall. The yellow trailing looked pleasing enough so I tacked it down. Here's the magic. It was as I worked the barred chain around the mini tangle, Sunchaser made his appearance!

I had no clue what to do with my obvious central theme, so I just began stitching the barred chains around the motif. I started with floss and tried to let it increase in brightness as I switched to #8 perle. After some pondering, my Sunchaser legend took root, so I realized I needed a dark and a light side and something more than the sun to suggest sky. Also in my recently dyed pile was some yarn, a synthetic that took several overnights to take on any color at all. I decided to try it for clouds. I began tacking it down with barred chain but I didn't like the look and figured I would cover it with something else, tiny seed beads maybe. I left it. I concealed the stitches, though, on the dark side with buttonhole stitch to begin the rain. I tucked in some cheesecloth from the same dye batch as the buckram. Though probably not visible, both fabrics have an occasional splash of yellow. On the dark side I ruched a piece of Frosty Rays (net tubing with metallic thread in the center) and used matching ribbon for French knots. I scattered a few in yellow on the other side.

From this point on I basically just used barred and alternating chains to fill space. For me this is not a tidy stitch. I believe it has a will of its own, and I was perfectly happy to just give in and let it have its way. I think it must take a stitcher of experience and determination to take charge.


Clockwise from top left:

1. buckram

2. quilters muslin

3. cheesecloth

4. cheesecloth

5. rug canvas

My most recent experiment with Procion MX dyes.

In an earlier post I wrote about learning to use these dyes with the aid of the book, Color by Accident by Ann Johnston and the online tutorial "Fabric Dying 101". For this venture I layered different cottons in a tray. The pieces of muslin were much larger to they went in scrunched, likewise the cheesecloth/scrim. I activated my original 3 concentrates and poured them beginning with blue in the middle, yellow to the right, and fuschia left. Since it all seemed to be flowing together anyway I did not stir and just left it for several hours. I suspected the experiment might be better using a larger tray so that more pure color might remain, and I'll try that next time. I feared I might end up with the dreaded mud dyers warn about when mixings go awry, but I liked my results overall. Although deep, I like the combinations that picked up on the muslin and scrim; they are, more or less, apple green, robins egg blue and magenta. The cotton rug canvas I threw in unscoured at the last minute so it really just kind of floated on the top in the center of the tray is an interesting blend of indigo and aqua.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007




Two years ago I visited the Maori Heritage Center in Rotorua, NZ, where we toured a Maori "village" and saw exhibits and demonstrations of indigenous crafts. I spent so much time studying and trying to photograph the walls of the Meeting House, I got only a brief look inside the Weaving House and missed the jade carving altogether. Imagine a large, rectangular hall with near floor to ceiling panels of woven samplers. Take a close look at the "stitches" and the designs produced in these panels. I don't believe there was an inch of wall and ceiling space that didn't have decorative carving or ornamentation of some kind. I just wanted to share this while we wind up our cross stitch study.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I'd better explain. With last week's cross stitch posting Sharon suggested we check out Jean Draper's online workshop "Pattern Making with Cross Stitch". The sampler at right is what I concocted. It is done entirely in cross stitch and variation.

In a former life, the background was a wool skirt that I machine felted (fulled). I really like camel color, but this one was drab and desperately needed color. My
predominant thread is Carons Watercolours "Fiesta", which by itself, didn't give me the brightness I wanted, so I added accents in red with a silk/wool yarn for needlework.

I started with some loose burlap patches. I cut and fringed and trimmed until I was satisfied with the shapes and stitched them down. The threads removed to make fringe fell like pick up sticks. I figured that's how they wanted to be so I stitched them in place. I also made a bundle of threads. The light burlap was too prominant. I added two pieces of homespun. It was about that time I was working with daylight and realized my green was actually teal (I really need to remember to use my Ott Light). I added a patch of flimsy turquoise and teal homespun and scrunched and distressed it. Next came fillers in the form of couched yarns (that squiggly one in the center is really a dark teal, and it's kinked because I unraveled a scrumble I didn't like), beads and more stitching. I decided I was done but needed closure .

I usually work without a hoop, but this time I did, and the project stayed in the hoop two or three days leaving the telltale rings. I could have pressed them out, but I hate to waste perfectly good guidelines, and I thought the design needed something to define that it was complete. And so entered my mind the encircling cross stitches. Meantime I remembered that I'd thrown a bunch of toothpicks into my dye pots (I've got great blue and purple and green and fuschia and yellow gold toothpicks; they don't come so colorful commercially, and now I have bragging rights to hand dyed embellishments that strangely resemble canape picks). Anyway, I criss-crossed to create a base, then criss-crossed with seed and wooden beads. I made the motifs before stitching the border. Were I to do it again, I'd lay down the border stitches first, then my circle would be unbroken.

My felt was irregular in shape. With a little stretch of the imagination it could almost be a hide.
I think I'll make it happen. I'd also like to distress the edges a bit. Maybe I'll play with the 24 needle felting tool I got yesterday, but it looks so wicked...

I think I started this in the PLS class where the idea was to cover with dense stitching. I just kept adding to it. Lots of Cretan, Fly & Feather Stitches and French knots. The first fish revealed itself in negative space, so I decided to bring him out a little more, but still hiding in his habitat.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Here is the first of my TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge) samplers for the cross stitch, a simple stitch with many variations and seemingly infinite possibilities for combining and fracturing.

This very bright 18ct Aida is from my first dye session, the batch dyed with straight Procion MX bright yellow. Quite a contrast to the "yellows" below in my last post! Reminds me of lemon custard ice cream, a gone but never forgotten treat from my childhood. Normally I would eschew a color like this, which to my mind belongs on an Easter egg. I prefer my colors warm and on the muted side, but we are constantly challenged to leave our comfort zones. With this in mind I had purchased some Caron Watercolours #021 with bright yellow, hot pink, fuschia, etc, I thought would be interesting to play with, those shades being so far from my usual tastes. And, as serendipity would have it, it matched the yellow of my Aida. You see it in my sampler in the outer border and center stitches.

I have to digress just a bit more on this colorway. Since buying the thread I have observed similar color schemes and have found them visually appealing (I couldn't/wouldn't want to wear them, but...). Doing homework for Maria Peagler's graciously free online workshop Develop Your Personal Pallette, I went through magazines and was amazed at how many photographs with that colorway caught my eye. In particular was a National Geographic cover I kept going back to. I couldn't find reference to the issue online, but the picture showed two Oriental women with parasols walking along a collonade on large stone cobbles wet from rain. It was an amazing shot representing a symmetry and balance of softened tones of fuschia, coral, taupe, and National Geographic gold. It has a place of honor in my color journal with similar colorways from lava flows, beetles, and undersealife. Nature triumphs again. Oh, and on the cover of the Caron Collection Color Selection Guide? Indeed! The same colorway muted down to mauve, rose, color, orchid, lavendar and wheat. Need I mention the lettering on the cover is pretty much NGS gold.

Back to the sampler. Outermost border is satin stitched (think about it, half of a cross stitch), then long arm cross stitch in a variegated DMC floss, cross variations in bright pink rayon floss,

then Montegrin cross in a handpainted silk floss from Vicki Clayton. In the center rectangle top and bottom are rice stitches with variegated silk buttonhole from Victoria Brown at Ribbonsmyth. I broke up the two center rows, but the stitches are Smyrna and another version of rice stitch, wherein the four ends of the initial cross are crossed.