About Me

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Here is my first attempt at fabric dyeing. It is Procion MX golden yellow, which turned out more pumpkin than mellow yellow -- um, make that hues of winter squash! I am not complaining because I was tickled at how many shades I got with the different fiber contents. There is white muslin, 2
cts of Aida cloth, cashel linen, cheesecloth/scrim, sheer silk,
buckram, vintage lace and crocheted motifs (some of which were almost brown with age), cheap rayon trim and braid, rayon cord and scalloped ribbon, silk ribbon. I won't lack for Halloween embellishments!
I scoured all items beforehand and followed directions for low immersion dyeing from Ann Johnston's Color by Accident and "Fabric Dyeing 101", a wonderful tutorial and blog by Melissa.
In addition I mixed up batches of fuschia, intense blue and yellow, the basic colors that came with my starter kit from ProChem. All turned out well, and I was especially pleased with the mottling from my crumpled fabric. I stored my remaining concentrates, but didn't want to throw out the dye baths I had just used. I mixed some colors together with no measurements really. This was an experiment and the stuff I had on hand hadn't been scoured first. I was elated when I first took them from their dye baths, so bright and beautiful; alas, much of the color rinsed out, and there was additional fading as it dried. Still the results of these practice pieces was interesting. Yellow and blue (about half and half) yielded soft aqua and seagreen depending on fiber content. A dash of fuschia in the blue gave me from orchid to periwinkle.
As I write, I have about 4 lbs of Moda quilting muslin scouring in my washing machine. Tomorrow I will play again and try to do everything right. It also occurs to me that some of the less satisfactory pieces can be overdyed or painted or treated in myriad other ways to become useable. For my present purposes color fastness isn't an issue, although I do want to learn and practice proper techniques.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

SUPER FLY -- stitch for TAST 8

This piece of linen began as something else, so I have one row on this sampler that is not fly stitch. It is the curving line of greenish backstitch woven with two colors of purl loops. Everything else is composed of fly stitch and variations, which I added in rows, not planning ahead. In other words, it was a dull exercise; even the colors were bland, and my hearts were upside down. Maybe I was just feeling off because we had just learned that our beloved teacher Sharon Boggan was ill and would require surgery.

I think silliness took hold with the beaded flies which reminded me of bird tracks. At this point I started having fun. I decided to turn this TAST sampler into a get well card. I stitched "Speedy Recovery" using only fly and the occasional straight stitch. I stitched it freehand, and it looked it. But I could go back later and do it right. Meantime I decided to try stick figures after playing around with a motif that used a combination of plaited and reverse fly stitch. I liked the look of these petroglyph styled characters (that may, however, be an alien in the center) and decided they should be raising their arms in joy, exhuberant with get well wishes -- they should be dancing! A hunting dance! They're going to track some giant, now extinct, flightless bird, and I'm going to leave my grafitti in naive form. Somewhere along the way I flipped the sampler, so my hearts are right side up. Originally they were there just because they could be. Now, of course, they represent our love reaching out to Sharon . I'm declaring the motif on the left side to be a mandala of healing. It is so ancient, part of it is buried. Corner flora symbolize medicinal plants. It's a shame my example of closed fly stitch is obscured by fronds.

I think I'll let the linen fringe beyond the deliberately rough border stitching. I may let the bird take a step or two out of bounds on the right. I'm happy. I'm optimistic about Sharon's recovery. I 'm even pleased with the colors now. I hope I've left the viewer with a hint of the

primitive expression I'm so fond of.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Feather stitch, oh feather stitch. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways -- or try to.

A feather stitch by any other name would still tickle -- not to mention give me endless delight. I do love this stitch. It can meander all over the place, it can be light and delicate or substantive. It looks beautiful on its own but also begs for embellishment in myriad ways. Did I play? Oh yes. Here's what I tried going from left to right:

Column 1 - 3 rows of feather stitch

I started smaller at the top and let the stitches elongate as I worked down. Then I turned fabric 180 (upside down) and worked the same way in reverse, larger to smaller. Had I worked the stitches in precise counts there probably would have been a pattern, but I liked the irregular look and thought it might have abstract or freeform potential. I turned the fabric 90 degrees to the right, then worked from left to right, connecting to ends from the second pass. I kept the "C" stitches in line to create a boundary from the next column group. What I really, really liked was the negative spaces that formed from the distorted stitches. It struck me as something organic, the look of something growing unexpectedly and with abandon.

Those incredibly shaped spaces begged for filling. I was going to leave them blank to better show off the experiment, but compromised and did a few so I could try different effects. My inclination was to go for a crazy patchwork and using different colors and textures to differentiate the segments. These are my fillers from top to bottom: 1) woven silk ribbon; 2) cross stitch in #8 pearl; 3) satin stitch in #5 pearl; 4) twisted bugle beads with Delicas; 5)beadpoint with #8 seed beads; 6) horizontal straight stitches in #5 pearl; 6) beadpoint with #8 seeds in a raku-like matte finish to counter the irridescence of the other bead section. I randomly placed a few Delicas and seeds on the tips of the conventional feather stitches.

By the way, I tried some other things with this area, but wanted more variety. I used straight stitches vertically, horizontally and diagonally, first with a single strand of floss in a light color, then darker. It didn't do much. Next I worked the straight stitches in a bright, #8 pearl as seen in the finished (6) above. I liked this a lot; I saw patchwork without the outlines of the spaces obscured. I worked the basic stitches in Caron Watercolours (1 strand), so I thought it might be better to use several shades for the straight lines. That worked well, too. Still I'm pleased with the variations in texture I started, and I like the way the conventional stitches gradually give way to the freeform.

Column 2 - single row of feathered up and down buttonhole

I suppose feathered feather stitch would be redundant. I added extra feathers . I like this effect for pine needle clusters or bamboo leaves. I worked them in 2 strands of silk floss. I like them best left as was, but I had to add a lighter accent because that area looked too dark. I wove a single strand of rayon floss and added French knots.

Column 3 - single row of beaded feather stitch

Since we're practicing stitches, I thought I might practice the bead embroidery too. I worked half up, half down. Embeadery by Margaret Ball was my resource. She gave several methods for the feather stitch. The one I chose turned out to be fairly easy and fast and kept the stitches flat for the most part. A method I'll save for when I want to build up more dimension has the bead strings crossing.

Column 4 -feathered up and down buttonhole

I went for a dainty look with 2 strands of silk floss and some small beads.

Column 5 - mirrored featherstitching with fillers

Left row is done with rayon ribbon shadowed with 2 strands of silk floss. The right side has a base of wool/silk yarn, overstitched with this incredibly smooth and slinky thread I found in New Zealand. It's just called Glitter Cord.

Can you handle another surprise? I took one look at the spaces between the two rows and saw hearts!!! Look closely, there are two large hearts and one small heart in the middle. It was a freak accident, but one I'll want to remember. The smaller one resulted from my habitual disregard for counting on these samplers. Note, I went from a series of 3 stitches to 2 in the middle.

I attempted to place Rhodes hearts in the centers, but all those feather points got in the way. My mettalic cord hearts are a bit misshapen, but they fill the space as do those little straight stitch crosses.

Column 6 - 2 rows single feather stitch

I like to use pearl for this stitch. I think I used #8 or #10. The body of the thread allows for a slight curve at the end when the "feather" is angled. When paired as opposites a diagonal space is formed. With this combination there are many, many possibilities for embellishment. I opted to keep it simple in this treatment , as the columns to either side are so strong.

Column 7 - 2 rows feather stitch joined

Same principle as Column 1, except I went from longer to shorter and kept the consistently spaced (I counted!). What a difference. These are also stitched with Caron Watercolours. I used rayon floss (2 strands) for the French knots and #8 seed beads in the center. If I'd had the right beads I might have gone for color gradation to work with the subtle change in stitch link.

Monday, February 12, 2007


My latest doodle sampler. No matter which way you look at it, it's a bit strange, but there's an explanation. This was to be my final lesson effort for Sharon B's Developing a Personal Library of Stitches class. It was going to be a heavily stitched piece, and according to my "sketch", was to be a profusion of paisleys. My scribble indicated where the paisley "eyes" would be. I basted buttons where I wanted approximate my focal points and started going for the multi stitch/color/texture of the central line. My "vision" was to have the entire cloth similarly covered. Time ran out.
I was several weeks late getting started with the TAST/Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge, so I used the unfinished sampler to work the requisite stitches. This is the result through herringbone. I'm calling it finished and will go on with mini-samplers for individual stitches, as I have other projects to work on.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


The Chain Reaction Top is my latest finished project. The sweater was designed by Shari Haus and appeared on the cover of the May 2006 edition of Creative Knitting Magazine. On the cover it was shown as a summer top, but a picture with the pattern presented it worn over a blouse as a pullover vest. I liked both versions, and because it uses a worsted weight cotton, I thought it could be year round practical. I used the actual yarn shown in the magazine photographs, Plymouth's Fantasy Naturale in denim.

Apart from waiting several months for special order of the yarn, the sweater, knit in 2 pieces, was easy and quick to knit up. The yoke, which includes the cap sleeves, hem and neck band are knit in garter stitch, the body is stitched in a patterned stockinette with gives the illusion of linked chains.

I'm sure this is going to become a favorite of mine to wear with jeans. It's comfy, but heavy, and unfortunately I added two pattern repeats for extra length for a tunic, but it doesn't hang right on me, and I'm going to have to make an adjustment.


TAST-y Tuesday: Algerian and eyelet stitches

Caution! Cuidado! Vorsicht!

Stitcher cannot find little holes and count at the same time.

<------ SURPRISE!!!

I became so envious of the beautiful hand dyed backgrounds of Sharon's examples, I decided to have a go at it myself. This Aida cloth is my first attempt. I wetted the cloth, picked up a little color (a Jacquard fabric paint) on a damp sponge brush and stroked and blended as though I were doing a watercolor wash. I let it dry somewhat, then washed and rinsed. No color in the rinse. None on my hands! After 24 hours there was no color rubbing off, and since this mini sampler will only see journal use, I didn't bother heat setting. My intent was to use only eyelet variations, and I kept to that pretty much -- but that's part of the surprise!

I whip-stitched the border with a #3 (?) variegated cotton pearl I had on hand from a Swedish huck kit. Band 1 - The blue motifs are stitched with rayon floss. They are the same Algerian minus the lateral stitches; the difference is in the number and length of the up and down stitches. The pink eyelets inbetween are cotton floss, which I integrated into the blue motifs as single straight stitches or French knots. Oh, the latter was an afterthought, not part of the surprise.

Filler row - Like the two motifs in the center row, these are just elongated, minimal-stitch eyelets done in 2 strands of DMC floss.

Band 2 - After completing this section which utilizes Vicki Clayton's hand dyed silk floss, and after realizing no two eyelets were alike, I made a discovery in the negative space between the motifs. If I connected the gaps I would have a six-pointed star. SURPRISE! And lest my Eureka! go unnoticed, I added tiny seed bead centers, hoping to make the viewer's eye pause for a moment and "appreciate" my discovery. This was a design tip I learned from Sharon B.

Middle row fillers - the elongated eyelets were stitched in a variegated Anchor pearl, maybe #10 or #12. It comes in a ball as opposed to a skein, and I picked it up in a fabric store in New Zealand. The same thread is used in the V-formation toward the bottom.

Band 3 and/or 3 & 4 (there was a more distinct "bandwidth" before I started adding fillers)
I liked the effect of the light blue (#5 pearl), alternating halves of Algerian eyelets. My next row started to be the same thing in larger scale (and in purple floss). But then I wondered if this treatment could be made to wave or zigzag. Note how I overlapped the side pairs. I think this shows promise for a crisp geometric line. For symmetry's sake, I converted the middle half eyelet to a whole. I like the arrangement between the overlapped pairs, and I also think it gives a touch more variety from the light blue row above.

Bottom portion - the V formation was an attempt to show how eyelets could travel. The bottom corner eyelets looked like shiny rayon blobs, so I added beads . Now they're eyes instead of eyelets. Without having planned it, the big pink star pretty much dominates the lower portion of the piece. I suspect subconsciously I wanted to emphasize the stars I had discovered (I wonder if I can register and name them?). Anyway, I used straight stitches to get the outline.
It looked rather bare, so I added six more straight stitches to make an eyelet. I remember I was going to stitch small eyelets in the center of the star spaces in Band 2, but I was afraid that would clutter the space and diminish my surprise with too many competing minds.

If I hadn't been so hung up about stars and keeping to eyelets, I might have embellished more,
but I'm going to call this doodle done.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Recent News

I've returned from another trip west. On the flight out I had fun chatting with the woman in front of me who also had knitting in hand. I did finish the front for my sweater while I was out there, but not having the back with me, I couldn't complete the project. I since have and will post a picture shortly.

I see TAST has begun with a flourish. There's even a ring and a Flickr group. I'm looking forward to getting settled in with the challenge. I have doodled all stitches to date, but what I hope to start doing is creating a mini sampler each week. And of course I want to refine and complete the ones I did in conjunction with Sharon's online Joggles class, Developing a Personal Library of Stitches.

When I first checked my email I found a thread about Stash Guilt in full discussion mode on one of my e-lists. Right after that I received a link to the latest edition of http://knitty.com/ISSUEwinter06/FEATcollection.html
and one of the best and therapeutically funniest articles I have ever read relevant to stash. I applaud author Kate Antonova , and encourage everyone to read it, for even though she speaks of a yarn collection it could be a stash by any other name. I see it as a miracle regimen for SGS (Stash Guilt Syndrome). This article is so liberating I think I'll stitch an homage to The Stashbuilders' Creed, shamefully adapted by me from the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition:

#10 -Greed is eternal!
#242 -More (stash) is good; all is better.
#97 -Enough (stash) is never enough.
#6 -Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity (for stash acquisition)!!

Another Knitty article well worth sharing is Cheating at Color Theory by Julie Theaker. It promises a foolproof method for determining color value.