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Monday, December 27, 2010

TAST 2010 - WEEKS 38 - 44

This is as much as I got done in the assigned week.  I kept thinking I would add something else or take something out, but I never got around to it, and now I don't remember clearly what I was trying to do.  I can see I worked a spiral, worked the chain with picots on either side, and worked the chain zigzag.

The background cloth is another piece of tea dyed dish towel.  The Watercolour shows up a little better than the Wildflower thread, but there's not much to see.  Sadly I didn't put a lot of time or thought into this assignment.  It was Thanksgiving week and I was juggling two overlapping online classes.  The picots are lost in the terry loops, and because they're placed randomly along the irregular lines, they're hard to spot anyway and not worth the effort IMHO.  I'll simply say the upward spikes have bullion picots and downward the chains. 

Magic Chain:  3 rows of chain just under TAST '10.

Woven Cross:  above and below the single line of beads.  I considered weaving the lettering which I added later, but ran out of time and steam.

Crossed Feather Stitch:  the top row, worked in Wildflowers.

Plaited Feather:  bottom rows.  If you look at the tangled center, you can maybe see I worked the plaited version between 2 rows of straight-sided feather stitch.

Even though my work was lackluster toward the end, I feel a sense of accomplishment for having completed the challenge and extreme gratitude to Sharon B for leading us through this wonderful learning adventure.  Tuesdays will not be the same without a new stitch to look forward to.  I'm thinking I might pick up the ones I missed in the original TAST challenge, and after that I'll probably tackle the Stitch Files.

You can view all of my TAST 2010 work here and original TAST here.
You can also view the photo pool for all TAST '10 participants here.
Join all of us at Stitchin Fingers, an international, online community for all manner of stitchery, fiber and needlework.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Sharon B was right in us this is an easy stitch and an attractive border as is.  However, I couldn't think of much else to do with it other than vary the stitch horizontally or vertically.  Here's what I did left to right:

1.  This looks like the traditional stitch and starts out that way, but if you look closely you'll see that after the first two stitches I lengthened the next two by one thread, then go back to the original and alternate from there.  I like this effect, gives a texture of crackle and looks somehow lacier.

2.  Started off normal, then a little zig-zag, then back to normal until I veer off to the left by changing the position of the first stitch.  You can see where I began the righthand diversion; the first stitch begins to the left of the last stitch in the upper, single column and covers the gap left by the top of the left branch.
The right branch experiments with horizontal variations.  I might have avoided the "nubs" if I had made the changes more gradual and by paying closer attention to the tension.

3.  Exactly like #1

4.  Upper portion of this column is worked evenly but more open.  Below I worked two side by side rows.

5.  Didn't want you to think the squiggles in Column 2 were mistakes.  Here's an entire column done zigzag style with random stitch length variation.

6.  The final column show a gradation in stitch length.

I don't particularly care for this stitch on its side, but I think vertically it doesn't make much difference upside down. 

See what other TAST'ers are doing on our Flickr site.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Flamingo Floozies, a slightly out of step chorus line.



Sharon B describes this as a kind of combination of twisted chain and oyster stitch.  It's easy enough to work once you get the hang of it and remember to point and wrap your needle in the right direction.  For this sampler I used single strands of Caron's Watercolours and Wildflower.  This stitch could be worked in tidy little knots, but I tend to form it loose and plump for the texture.  I didn't do much in the range of variation other than alternate spikes and curved & straight lines. 

Originally I was working on a geometric pattern, but at some point I glanced down and saw a tree.  To convince the viewer it is a tree I added some grass, and here's when I came up with another variation.  The final portion of the stitch is worked like buttonhole, so it was easy to add more spikes which I liked a lot.  The lowermost grass is two overlapping rows.

There is one more thing I want to do with this stitch.  I will attempt it later this week, time permitting.

Friday, October 22, 2010



When you visit the tutorial for Take a Stitch Tuesday's 34th week, you'll see an example of a nice border.  But beware!  You can take this interesting stitch to other places.  I used a piece of wool felt for the background and let my needle go with perles , #3-#8, or two strands of floss. 

I'm thinking Halloween, but see what others are doing here .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


 In preparation for Day One, I assembled the supplies I had on hand.  These included tubes of watercolor paints over 15 years old and a simple plastic pallet with dried gobs of color.  There is no place in my house with good natural light except in my laundry room studio, and it is presently too cluttered to work in.  I could have tidied, of course, but then I'd've had to move and find places for all the WIP's sprawled across my tables and dangling from the clothesline then go looking for them when I was ready to resume work on them.  I finally decided on the kitchen/diningroom table.  It's big and under a good lighting fixture.  DH's side is littered with medical and banking stuff, but my side is clear.  I like to keep it that way in case I ever have to eat there.  Doesn't everybody dine off their laps in the den watching the news?

I download, print and read the lesson several times.  Indeed I read it correctly; we are to draw then paint real pieces of fruit.  When I'm through cringing, I look for fruit.  I have one apple and two bananas.
That'll work. But the rest of my supplies haven't arrived yet.  Hallelujah,  I'll have to wait until tomorrow!

Next day Joggles comes through with their usual efficiency,  promptness, and TLC in shipping.  A block of hot pressed, 140 wt paper and a Niji waterbrush arrive in the morning mail. I create a pleasant arrangement of apple and bananas. Today I draw and paint fruit -- as soon as I'm loose enough to work.  Nervous tension should dissipate once I get started.  Except I have a little more than stress to contend with.  If you recall from my last post I'm talking drawing angst.
My upper arms go from drum tight to jelly as I try to get down to business.  I can't possibly draw in this physical condition.  I'm a wuss, a scaredy cat.  I'm chicken excrement.

I thought I would operate in lurk and learn mode.  I would read the discussion forums but not participate -- and certainly not show my work.  Reading through the intros I was surprised there were others who shared my trepidation but were willing to lay timidness aside in order to learn.  Today I will draw and paint fruit...

Teacher!  Teacher!  My husband ate my homework.  Today I will draw and paint fruit.  An apple and one banana make an awkward composition, but today I drew and painted fruit.  My linework is unsteady,  testament to my genuine skittishness.  A fellow student posted in the forum that she'd shown her work to lots of people, all of whom said they could tell it was fruit.  That's all I could ask from this exercise.  My fruit doesn't look good enough to eat, but that's okay.  It made a dent in my mental block.  The next day I drew and painted an acorn squash.

Our class, Jane LaFazio's Sketchbook and Watercolors Journal Style, is quite large so Jane has opened a Flickr pool if you'd like to see our efforts.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I don't know how to draw!  There, I've said it.  I feel like a book club member who confesses she's illiterate.  I never learned to draw.  I know it is an acquired skill that takes careful observation, patience and practice, lots and lots of practice.  I don't think I ever wanted to learn (well, there were early issues, but we won't be visiting them), never really thought I needed to learn to draw.   I scribbled when I had to and got it over with as quickly as I could.

I began this blog as a journal of my creative endeavors.  I took a Joggles class from Sharon Boggan called Studio Journals: A Designers Workhorse.  As with any Sharon B enterprise, I highly recommend it.  I'm actually still working through the course and have several art journals going and new interests in mixed media and paper arts.  Cutting to the chase, these working art journals contain scribblescrawlies where there should be nice sketches.  No one will ever see them, but I'd like them to look more, more...  artful.

When Joggles published their fall class schedule I discovered this:
Sketchbook & Watercolor:  Journal Style with Jane LaFazio.

Be inspired to record your life, a special trip, or your daily adventures in a loose, quick journal style format. Jane will guide you through basic drawing, inking and a straight forward intuitive approach to painting with watercolor.

You’ll start with simple objects and progress to vignettes then vistas to draw and paint, and journal your thoughts and impressions on journal size watercolor paper. She’ll encourage you to take a little time to just sit and absorb the beauty around you, sketching and journaling your thoughts impressions right onto the same page.

This 6 lesson class is geared for beginners, but all levels are welcome. Everyone has their own drawing style, just like handwriting, and Jane will help you see and then record that on paper in a friendly, positive and creative way.
Guess who marked her calendar for the October 14 starting date???
I took an earlier class from Jane and have been following her blog ever since.  She is not only an excellent teacher, she is a gifted and versatile artist.  There was no reason for me to have misgivings about the class (except maybe draw-ing!!!!).  Every time Jane posted a lovely watercolor sketch with mention that she was preparing for the class I would gasp, then despair, for that is exactly the style I'd like to learn and I have serious doubts about my capability to do so.  A few days before Oct 14 I made the decision to register.  My shaky finger hovered over the confirm button quite a while before pushing -- a leap of faith moment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


What I want to know about a stitch are its properties, what it can be made to do beyond the basic.  For example, I want to know if its appearance can be altered by manipulating the line or curve, size of stitch components, or giving the stitch a different orientation.  Each band in this sampler is a separate experiment.  I know the threads I chose make it difficult to see, but this is what I was going for:

Band 1 -   The first line is the basic.  Foundation stitches are #5 perle and lock weave in #8 perle, different shade.  The second line is stitched one background thread below the first and is the same as the first but inverted.   Since the space between the two rows is shallow, the scallops that normally occur between thread pairs gives way here to parallel lines.  If I allowed greater space between the rows I think I would have opposing scallops as another design option.  The closeness of the rows did create a small diamond where the thread pairs meet;
that's where I placed the French knots.

Band 2 - This is probably double lock stitch.  I did the weaving top and bottom.
I love the oval/rounded square space that is formed.  I suppose it would become oblong if the foundation stitches were longer.  I worked a single diagonal stitch in the center with 2mm glitter ribbon.  The rest of this band was done with a single strand of Caron's Watercolours, as are all of the following bands except #5.

Band 3 - I simply worked the lock stitch sideways.

Band 4 - You have to look really close to realize here are parallel wavy lines.  I know now that the undulation would be more pronounced and more graceful if I placed the foundation stitches closer together in their rows.  The different colors are also a distraction from the wave.

Band 5 - I used a skinny rayon cord to make foundation stitches uneven lengths and slightly askew at the top.  The result might have been more interesting if I hadn't been so keen on using this really cool rayon boucle yarn that I have so much of because I made a sweater I had to unravel in its entirety because the yarn was so very stretchy.  So even though I knew it was too bulky for the size of the stitches I let it stay.  I tried desperately to push it down, but it springs back.  Color's pretty, though, right?

Band 6 - Working with foundation stitches on the diagonal -- I think this is not the best use of a variegated thread.  I also meant to try it with the lock weaving to the center.  Another option for later.  I get a nice surprise from this band.  Can you guess before I tell you further down?

Band 7 - Similar to Band 3, this one is double lock stitch on its side.  I used the same thread in both bands, but here I controlled the color.

Here is the sampler on its side so you can see how the stitches look as columns: 
 Take another look at Band 5.  I spy a column of

Sharon B's tutorial for lock stitch and info about TAST 2010 can be found here, and work by other participants can be found here.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


 I love a stitch that meanders.  On its own it's about as exciting as a paper clip, which it can resemble when worked as a zig-zaggy line.  Fortunately for us, Sharon's sampler showed us the potential for wonderful texture with use of yarns and ribbons and inclusions.  This is why I went immediately to a burlap with loose enough weave to accomodate the funkiest of yarns.  As it turned out, I only used one , the soft lilac which is a knitted tube of gossamer fiber.
After laying down a few gentle curves, I experimented with a spiral and a simple, daisy style flower.  The gold rayon ribbon I used to weave as well as working the shell chain.  In the detail below you can see another flower with two rounds of shell chain stitch.

Here's a close up of that flower.  For the most part in this sampler I used perle cottons, #3 -#8, doubling some for bulkier effect.  The gold thread is an inexpensive one I bought on a large tube in a craft store.  It doesn't kink like some metallics and is very easy to sew with, although threading it is sometimes another matter.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Take a Stitch Tuesday - Week 31

Let's hear it for the threads!  I started in the center with the heaviest of the threads.  It is a #3 perle hand dyed in ametrine hues by Jane Van Keulen, a talented New Zealand artist.  The final round of tiny leaves and sprigs is hers also, a rayon floss I used double stranded.  It has spectacular sheen and variations of russet.  The four large coral-orange leaves were made with a single strand of  Caron's Watercolours.  They are followed with smaller leaves
stitched with a single strand of Stef Francis silk perle.  Finally the border uses 2 strands of Caron's Waterlilies and #11 seed beads.  The background is Belfast linen.

I was going for a medaillon effect so I found the center of the fabric and basted lines that would divide the work into eights and used those lines to center the leaves.  I was able to alter the shape of the leaves by varying the foundation stitches.  For example, the two foundation stitches for the largest leaves are the same length, but the reddish ones have a shorter upper stitch.  I realized if I began that upper stitch a little off kilter , I could get a slight curve for my leaf tips.

Although my design is symmetrically based, I tried to bring as much variety as I could.  I'm well pleased with the different colors and textures and wholeheartedly give credit to the threads!  Precision is for charted patterns.  I wanted my leaves, while "posed", to still suggest naturalness, and when imperfect stitches occurred I pretty much let them stay.

Don't forget to see what other participants are doing over on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I have been a Sharon B fan for some years now.  Still, she never ceases to amaze me with her talent, her energy, her capacity for sharing.  She's done it again!  Check out her new STITCH FILES.  While you're over there on her Pin Tangles blog, subscribe to the feed; great stuff everyday!  Bookmark her online Stitch Dictionary, too.
Okay, so you're reading the release info and get to the part where eventually files will be available for sale and you're feeling an aha! Trust me, don't be put off.  This is no gimmick.  When Sharon puts a price on anything it's a bargain.
Sharon is dedicated to a higher purpose, sharing her knowledge and joy of stitching, design and related arts.  I have taken four of Sharon's online courses offered on Joggles.  Each class is unique and for me like a semester of study complete with textbook.
If you stitch and adore all things to do with fiber, textiles, fabrics, etc, Stitching Fingers is a must visit!

Monday, September 27, 2010


 Take a Stitch Tuesday, Week 2
Eastern Stitch

I wasn't very enthusiastic when I started this stitch, but the more I worked it the less rigid it became.  I could alter the appearance with tension, size and thread, and I found it could go in about any direction.  Take a good look at the bird; the stitches have been worked every which way: horizontally, vertically, diagonally, reversed direction, curved to outline, distorted to fill and taper.  With the exception of the outer border, bird legs, upper beak and eye, all the stitches are the Eastern. I had already stitched the outside border, but those X-stitches could just as well have been Eastern Stitch.

A note about the feed dish.  It's an old button, a 1/4 inch deep cup with scalloped edges.  The flat bottom is a 2-hole sew-through (no shank), which enabled me to stitch in the seed bead corn. Got to fatten the hen, you know.

The Eastern stitch tutorial and more information about TAST 2010
can be found here.  And you can see the work of other TAST participants here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I sought a place to have my lunch
Beside a stream of tropical punch.
Fruits and berries came in handy,
But oh! those flowers made from candy.
'Neath leaves of green so sweet and minty
I rested my tummy full of plenty.
Leaning against the chocolate wood,
I tasted some bark and it was goooood.
Fluffy clouds of marshmallow cream
Floated past in my storybook dream.
When at last I woke from my nap,
I found this stitching in my lap.

TAKE A STITCH TUESDAY - WEEKS 27 - 29:  WOVEN TRELLIS and 2 VERSIONS OF RAISED CHAIN.  These links will take you to the tutorials for these stitches.  You can also visit the TAST Flickr Group Pool to view work by many participants.

All of the flowers are woven trellis with the exception of the one centered on the left; it is Version 1 of the raised chain as is the rainbow banner. The circle and scroll are Version 2.  A single strand of Caron Watercolours was used for the major elements, although the rainbow and border straight stitches are done with Caron Wildflowers, a single strand.  The accents on the flowers and other background stitches were rendered with Stef Francis silk or cotton perle.  

At this point I feel obliged to explain the poem.  I wasn't very happy with my woven trellis flowers, but they were better than the ones I ripped off another piece of fabric.  I didn't really want to work any more and decided to put a hold on the sampler until the next TAST.  I worked the two versions of raised chain, and still wasn't at all pleased with the look of the overall piece.  No wonder.  It was clearly hodgepodge and totally unacceptable to me.  I kept coming back to it and adding things, starting with the additions to the major flowers.  Before I added filler stitches I pondered for days about the big rainbow thingy.  knew it was a stream of something delicious fed by a soda spring.  But how could anybody looking at the stitchery connect to my childlike fantasy.  So I wrote the little poem to convey the imagery to the viewer, not so much that I thought viewers would be clueless , but more to my thinking the sampler couldn't stand on its own.  I like this stitched piece now.  It makes me happy and evokes memories from the naive imagination of my childhood when my mother read me stories about candylands, sausage trees, lemonade seas and popcorn snorting dragons and Shirley Temple sang about the Good Ship Lollipop.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


                                       Take a Stitch Tuesday, Week 24
The Siennese stitch may look like a cross stitch, but it is constructed quite differently.  Click on the link above to see the tutorial.  There is a twist in the thread at the center that provides texture to the stitch, but it's difficult to see when rendered in a dark thread or in a smallish stitch. 

I experimented with 11 different threads and yarns to make the Siennese stitches.  You can see I've used them as individual, pattern grouping, and couching stitches.  I think the background is a 28 ct. lugana.  The grid-thingy is a piece of latch hook canvas that I dyed.  Here's another orientation. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Weeks 22 and 23 of Take a Stitch Tuesday - chain stitch variations.  Not much to say here; the stitches were easy to work and and afforded some interesting possibilities for change.  With the triple chain I played with the orientation of the side chains and then placed the triads in different arrangements.  The zig-zag one doesn't show up well; I should have used two strands of floss to stand up to the #5 perle.  I worked this pattern using two needles.

The wreath is made from two different variegated green threads, but I did not work the leaves in pairs.  I worked stitches in one color first and then filled in with the other.  The two vertical lengths of waved chain are similar and used the same double strands of floss.  In the skinnier one I work each bottom stitch through the same hole.

A word to thank all of you who read my blog and take time to leave much appreciated comments.  I am not ignoring you!  I do love to look at your work and leave feedback and hope to resume that practice again.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


I like the way the slipped detached chain can make blossoms.  My background is cotton duck.  I did a running stitch border in a rayon cord and later, to my regret, wove in the novelty yarn which I now find distracting and would remove, were I to have another use for this sampler. 

I laid foundation columns of feather stitch with a single strand of Watercolours ("wildberries"?) then proceeded with the blossoms in the same thread.  I worked from top down and started with single slipped stitches, then double and finally triple toward the bottom.  I wanted the droop effect atop the second column, so I used French knots to represent spent blooms, followed by reverse pointing single slip stitches for fading flowers, then proceded as I did with Column 1.  To bring filler to some of the negative space I stitched a "background" vine in the rayon cord, leaving it unembellished.  With some #5 purple perle I made a few bees.  It occurred to me to make a butterfly using 2 detached chains with the slipped stitches between them, but I didn't really know where to put it.

Back to the border.  I like it on the right side.  On the left it competes with the floral column, and it's bugging me so much I've got to remove it.  Yes-s-s-sss.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Ole!  Week 20 of Take a Stitch Tuesday:  buttonhole wheel cups.   I started with wheels that were too large  to create, say, a lily of the valley blossom, but I still managed some variations using the basic technique.  I forgot to take a pre-embellishment scan; it would have made descriptions easier.  I did like it plain, and could easily have filled in with small cups and partial fans. I'll explain each flower starting at the top and from left to right:

Row 1: 
1)  Large yellow wheel with picot edging and woven spokes (2 spokes up, 2 down).  thread is a variegated perle (DMC, I think). 

2)  Coral wheel, worked from the inside and pulled tautly to create spikes on the outsidew (most are covered).  Thread is one strand of Caron Watercolours.

3)  Large rainbow colored wheel (Caron Wildflowers "Tahiti").  It's a little hard to see, but there are 2 ruffled edgings.  After completing the first buttonhole round, I began another toward the inside.

4)  Multi wheel with buttonhole worked from the outside as shown in Sharon's tutorial.  This wheel had 16 spokes.  I first tried wrapping them four at a time, but the resulting triangles were not even .  For the do-over I wove up and down four spokes at a time.  I tried changing the up and down positions about halfway, but it looked untidy.  I left it as you see and put a French not in the center.  The thread is another Wildflower colorway.

Row 2 

1)  Small Tahiti wheel, edging to the center.

2)  This wheel has lots of increases in the first couple of rows, then I started decreasing to pull the edging toward the center.  It's like a pouch.  I could stuff it and gain more dimension.  I think it resembles an upside down Rasta cap with its Carribean colors.

3)  Small yellow wheel gets it bumpy texture from working 3 buttonholes in one stitch then 1 in the next.  It is worked from the inside toward the center, the same as the 3 coral wheels. 

4) Coral wheel, see above.

Row 3

1)  Coral wheel, see above.

2)  This is worked like #4 in the first row, except there are 14 spokes, the weaving over 2 spokes at a time.  One round of buttonhole edging.

Now I'm off to pack.  I'm taking a quicky trip to CA to see my dad who is now home after several weeks of hospitalization.  It's a brief visit between DH's chemo treatments.  I'm pleased to say both gentlemen are doing well, and so am I.  I'll be working on Week 21 out there!

Friday, July 09, 2010


 I'm sapped.  It's stress.  My work here lacks the sense of stitch adventure I usually try to convey.  I enjoyed the stitches, and it wasn't as though they didn't lend themselves to creative re-interpretation, I just didn't have the energy to think outside the box.  On the other hand, I am caught up!
I started with a piece of fulled wool.  There was a piece of dyed cheesecloth stuck to it like it wanted to stay.  I spread it out with no particular shape in mind, and I let the rest of the scrim dangle because I didn't have any scissors at the time.  There were also bits of threads stuck to the cheesecloth, so they got to stay, too, and eventually I added more snippets.  With nothing special in mind I started working the wave stitch with a variegated #5 perle.  I liked the way the cheesecloth sort of pouffed through, so I kept going.  After a while I turned the piece upside down and started down from the opposite side.  Not sure where to go next, I rotated the piece and considered the possibilities (remember, there's still a glob of cheesecloth hanging off one end!).  A plumed helmet?  With stuff dangling from the earlaps, perhaps?  A vessel?  There's something about that concave -- a maw.  And teeth!  I'd found my direction.
I worked wave stitching from both sides until I was about a row apart at the center.  I simply laced to join.  For the tail I cut off the excess scrim to leave enough to fan out.  I stabilized the tail with some gathered tulle that I stitched from behind.  I knotted in streamers, and these are longer that what you see above.  Finally I added a button eye so you'd sense it was a creature.  That's as playful as I could muster.

The chain stitch was already on this piece of linen .  If you look at the large blossom you can maybe see where I worked 7 sword stitches, hilts to the center capped with French knots.  I then placed lazy daisies around the blades of the swords.  I'm not sure what the thread is, but it's a boucle cotton.  It was my first time using it, and I like the effect.  The smaller flower is worked like the larger ones.  I used two strands of cotton floss to make sword stitch greenery.  I used a variegated #5 perle to work the first layer of up and down feather stitch, followed by a layer of 2mm rayon ribbon, and finally a few stitches with 2 strands of floss (blue).  To fill space I added a few vintage buttons.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Take a Stitch Tuesday - Week 16.  The Italian knotted border stitch looks deceptively like the knotted fly stitch.  Once you work it, though, you realize the major difference is where the knot lies.  In the Italian knotted stitch, the knot, specifically a French knot is formed outside  and below the "V".  In knotted fly, the knot is created in the V before adding the stem.  In other words, the French knot is the stem in the Italian version.
I began in the center with a single French knot, around which I placed 4 Italian knotted stitches, knots inward.  Then over each leg I worked the same stitches knots facing outward this time, and I worked in an extra stitch wherever there was a gap. Next I  worked stitches knotted outwards , beginning the legs from the previous row of knots.  The I worked a round of overlapping stitches.  This inner "flower" was done with two strands of silk floss.  I switched to a single strand of Watercolours and worked a circle of French knots around the flower.
From those knots I worked a round of Italian knotted stitch, knots outward and surrounded by two lines of laced running stitch.  The final border is comprised of pairs of Italian knotted stitches worked knot to knot, French knots in between.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Week 15 - Ladder Stitch was love at first try.  It can be worked in a very orderly fashion.  Even better it can be varied both vertically and horizontally, shaped, worked solo or side by side.  But best of all can be woven leading to myriad other possibilities.  Here is a stitch I can play with.  I was delighted  with this little bit from my doodle cloth.   At first glance I thought it was pretty cool just as an abstraction.  Maybe it's all the Zentangling I've been doing lately; I sense a hint of 3-D perspective.

I didn't have too much in mind for my sampler other than a composition of grids.  It was when I started weaving in parrot colorway that the idea of feathers arose, and next came the challenge to see if I could build an avian shape with just ladder stitch.   This is what I came up with free stitching (no pattern or outline).  I think it's recognizeable as a bird?
Although I'm through with this for now, I seriously thinking of going Crafty Chica and adding sequins & beads to the background.  Pity you can't really catch the glitter cord sparkle.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Waiting on DH in another doctor's office, I'm working on Week 14 of Take a Stitch Tuesday.  After a short time a young girl sitting across from me says, "I like what you're doing there."  Never one to disregard a child's curiosity, I invite her to sit next to me to see first hand what I'm doing.  She was intrigued by the very things that appeal most to me, pleasing colors and lots of textures.  She was delighted to touch the sampler and oooh'ed as her fingers stroked the silk ribbon, and I was tickled that she picked up on the glittercord right away.
I  reached into my thread bag and  showed her how she could feel the difference between silk and cotton.    I was sorry I had no extra cloth with me or I would have her stitching in no time.  I had to settle for her promise that she would ask her grandmother to teach her embroidery.  I got no stitching done for the remaining wait, but I had the most extroadinary conversation with a young lady far beyond her 11 years.  We discussed our art interests which turned out to be mutual, as well; we pretty much ran the gamut of fiber arts.  DH showed up just as we were creating Zentangles, me on the back of my shopping list, she on an electronic device with a drawing program.  Time well spent.  And from now on my activity bag will include not only extra stitching supplies but knitting needles, yarn, crochet hooks and small pads for Zendoodling.  I intend to be prepared for the next teaching opportunity!

The first band started out as an up/down, every-which-way line of stitching that was probably more in line with my mood while I sat out DH's routine colonoscopy.  His results were fine, mine not so much.  I frogged it completely and replaced it with two repeat rows.  By the way, all the herringbone in this sampler is worked in #5 perle cotton.  The first band is buttonholed with a variegated perle from Anchor.

The whole time I'm working on this stitch I'm thinking of ways to depict waves.  The variation I made in the second band was to alternate the peaks and valleys in the two rows.  The buttonhole portion is a single strand of Caron Watercolours.   If you look at the last part of the second row, you'll see it's more angular than scalloped.  I left it that way to show I experimented with working the buttonhold upside down.  My conclusion is the scallops lay better when worked right side up.

 Band 3 is double herringbone buttonhole; ie, both layers have buttonhole over the foundation herringbones.   I suppose it would have looked more interesting if I had "woven" the second layer, but I wasn't energized enough to try. The underlayer of buttonhole is worked in cotton perle, possibly Caron Wildflowers, the upper layer is 2 strands of silk floss from Vikki Clayton.

Turn Band 4 on it's side for a short/tall effect.  I think this would work well for waves (picture different blues and pearl or crystal beads for white caps and spray) or for purple mountains'  snowcapped majesty.  And note to self:  use a thread with less contrast for the foundation herringbone.   Young Jada asked me two questions.  After explaining the TAST challenge and how it works to her, she wanted to know what kind of prizes were we competing for.  I hope my answer sunk in, that our reward comes in learning something new, trying something new, and that through our online show and tell we garner inspiration and encouragement to go on doing what we do just because we love to do it.  Of course then she wanted to know what I was going to do with the sampler.  I didn't think it prudent to say it would probably end up in a box or drawer with like pieces, so I suggested ways I could use it by making it part of something larger, like adding fabric and making a purse or a book cover or lid for a special box.  Jada thought it would be way cooler for me to stitch all my samplers together like a quilt.  It was sort of like our coversation.  One thread led to another until everything was unified.

Friday, May 28, 2010


OMG is that background what I think it is?  It is if you're thinking towel!  I made a batch of Earl Grey tea stain the other day and couldn't just pour the leftover down the drain.  What was handy was a threadbare dish, er, tea towel I'd used as a blotter from my last dye session.  "I wonder what it would be like to stitch on?", I mused as I stuffed it into the Pyrex measuring cup that held the tea.  As soon as the towel was rinsed and dried I found out.

I finished Week 12 early, so I was happy to keep my fingers from wriggling in anticipation of  Monday Night and the latest TAST temptation.  I worried (not really, this was a rag!) about embroidery needles and sharp points catching on  tiny, terry loops, but since the velour finish had long ago worn away from the printed front side, the fabric was very giving and yielded to my large tapestry/yarn needles with ease.  For this sampler I ended up using only #5 perle cottons and fingering weight wool/silk yarns.

About 2/3's down I started a line of twisted chain.  I wanted a little more height so I layered a second row right on top. You can see I got much better dimension with yarn seen in the single layer of twisted chain below (brown).  The gray line is knotted buttonhole stitch threaded with a piece shiny raffia, probably something that once tied up a package.  Seems like I had just gotten down that charcoal line of Sorbello than twas time to download Week 13, Raised Cup Stitch!  Am I the only one who has a pavlovian response to Sharon B's challenge posts?

I got all of those raised cups stitched waiting in a doctor's office for DH.  They are all worked with the silk & wool yarns.  I love their organic shapes, how they flop and smoosh together.  The white one in the center  is an example of decreasing to make the cup turn inward.  The coppery bit you see are "stamens" emanating from a French knot.  I added irregular cretan stitching awaiting DH's lab work the next day, routine medical, btw.  I was satisfied that that finished the upper portion, but had to experiment a bit to get the rest as you see below.
I tried couching down some pussy willow yarn, had a little spiral going, but the color seemed to light.  I made it worse by weaving in a darker yarn.  Ugh.  Check out the raised cup centers, wooden and agate beads too big, faux pewter spacer beads.  No, no, no.  Too fussy.  Not in keeping with the rustic look I wanted.

What was I thinking?  That thing ,btw, is a freeform crocheted motif that's been waiting around forever to unite with its  kind to become a scrumble.

So I end up with unfilled cups and graduated French knots on the bottom.  Swapped out some of the beads in the other row with French knots --  and
a bullion (white cup on the left!).

And now a sort of tutorial.  Working the raised cup stitch reminded me of a motif I learned a few years back on the CQ Embellishers forum.  I was thrilled to make it, especially since I hadn't learned any fancy stitches.  The other Embelles used this effectively as sea anenomes in some of their wonderful underwater fantasies.  The motif is so simple, it really doesn't require illustration.

Thread a tapestry needle with yarn or chunky thread.  I find this easiest to do on my left index or little finger, but a pencil could be used instead.   Begin at the top finger joint and wrap the yarn upwards about four times, covering the tail as you go.  Wraps should be loose enough for you to work the needle underneath.  Pass the needle downwards behind the wraps, holding the top coil with another finger.  Now work around buttonhole stitch around, pushing the
stitches close together.  When the round is completed, weave in the end.  You now have a little ring motif you can stitch to your work and embellish with beads.  I used to like to make these using a funky variegated yarn, sparkly and frizzy.  They can also be used to make little nests as in the example below

This is from my project for Sharon Boggan's Encrusted Crazy Quilting class.  If  you haven't tried one her courses, you do not know what you're missing.  They are outstanding and comparable to a semester of study complete with textbook. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I've become a real fan of knotted stitches for the extra texture they provide.   Sharon B gave us beautiful examples of Week 12's Sorbello stitch, which makes interesting patterns when used in repeats and presents itself nicely for the addition of bead embellishment.  She had one example of the stitches worked densely together as a filler, and she varied a thread or two adding color and textural variety.  I really liked the appearance, but I didn't want to copy her application.  I chose to apply a similar version as a border.  My stitches are more open, and I used a single variegated thread (Watercolours, one strand).
It's dense and textured enough, though, that glancing at the actual cloth, the stitching almost looks like crochet or chunky cotton lace.

My next variation was going to be a line of elongated stitch alternating high and low positions of the knot.  I discovered it was easy enough to work side by side stitches this way by varying the tension of the first part of the stitch .  When I went to work it on my sampler, I decided to do it in two passes, working the upper knotted stitches and leaving spaces for the lower knotted ones to be filled in afterward.  Using a single strand of a different Watercolour thread, the stitches were too dense.  Too many threads made the line too busy and the high-low knot effect got lost.  I'll try the technique another time, maybe even experiment with alternating colors.

After removing the second pass (lower knotted) stitches, I decided I liked the spacing, which led me to place the lower knotted stitches directly below their counterparts, creating a nice diamond in the negative space (perfect for a seed bead or French knot?).  To me the obvious next move was to at least partially fill the spaces between the stitches and balance the high-low with a centered knot at the join line.  For this I used 2 strands of hand dyed cotton floss that matched the deeper colors of my border thread.

At this point I realized my remaining stitching space was limited; spirals, curves and the like would have to wait for another project.  I opted to repeat the first two rows.  This repetition gave me another the appearance of little circles (a skinnier thread would have produced little diamonds).  Nice.  I could have left the sampler alone at this juncture, but something else was needed to fill the void between stitches of the center two rows.  I thought X's  like I did in the other rows would crowd and distract from the little O's.  I didn't want to introduce a new thread either.  I took a single strand of the floss and made the elongated, center knotted X's.  I like the look.  The background space is filled but subtly.  There is certainly room still for beads and French knots, but I'm going to let that go -- for now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The stitch for the 11th week of our Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge is suitable for a variety of applications.   In terms of CQ seam treatment, I doubt it can be beat in its potential for embellishment since the combinations of stitch variations with sequins, beads, ribbons, buttons, charms and other threads seem limitless.  The bullions (and mine are hardly exemplary) require time and patience but are so worth the effort.

I used a piece of Procion dyed Aida and worked my samples as they might appear over a seam, but certainly they provide enough interest and texture to be included in a contemporary embroidery project.  In the first row I used #12 silk perle from Vikki Clayton; I've had this for some years and I doubt she stocks it anymore.  I worked the buttonhole upwards and downwards in one pass.  I varied the height of the bullions but kept the variations symmetrical.  I left spacing for additional embellishment like buttons or flower beads, but I opted to try a little SRE, a loose French knot (aka Montano knot) and a petal.  I filled all the spaces but it was too much, and you can see where I didn't take time to scratch over the stitch holes.  On reflection I deem the SRE here out of proportion with the more delicate stitch size.  A poor choice, but I just wanted to get an idea.  For the record, all the bullions were straight; several got ruffled though when I removed the silk ribbon stitching.  I actually like a version that would be more relaxed with some of the bullions drooping, not sloppy, just an occasional irregularity.
 The second element is comprised of two rows of bullion buttonhole worked close together and then laced with a decorative cord.  Space is left between the bars of bullion for additional embellishment.  Ribbon or some other thread or yarn could easly be threaded under those bars.  The basic thread here and in the next pattern are both single strands of Caron Watercolours.  I'll talk about the cord in a minute. I wanted to add, I really like the way some of the bullion clusters nestle and curve together.  Another time I would try to make them all appear like that, a softer, less rigid look.

The final section is again two rows worked in a curve with a little more space between them.  I thought a line of beads worked as a center row would be pretty.  You're surely aware that were this to be a finished decorative project I'd probably have beads all over the place, especially crowning those bullions.
What I did instead is run the cord under the bullion rows, and it's a shame it's not showing up that well because it is a sublime thread!

Glitter cord it's called, and I found it in a fiber art store in Christ Church , NZ.
I bought a couple of skeins and hoarded them until recently when I discovered I could purchase more and so much more directly from the artist, Jane Van Keulen.  When you visit her website, take time to peruse her gallery and see her lovely work.  Back to the Glitter cord.  Jane's colorwork is scrumptious.  That alone would be enough, but this cord has additional properties of being soft and almost sensuously slinky the way it drapes over hand and fingers.  It's too bad the sparkle doesn't show up in these pix. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010


I found this Week 10's stitch could be light and airy, make a linear statement of its own, a wonderful seam treatment with unlimited possibilities for embellishment.  This little sampler was stitched on a piece of woven raw silk, very burlap-looking, that I dyed with saffron for a recent class at Quilt University with Marjie McWilliams.

I really liked the way Row 1 turned out.  I made the foundation bars with two side by side stitches, but because of the looseness and irregularity of the background weave it looks like I stitched little v's. For the first layer of lacing I used #5 perle in yellow, and because it doesn't stand out on its own, I added a second layer by lacing through the center bars only and going under the background thread directly below the top bars and above the bottom bars.  The result is like a row of spiders, and I think I'm going to have to file this idea away for a future CQ or Halloween project.                                                    The detail to the right shows how I vertically worked this next segment  .  Obviously it was a waste of time because the stitching looks the same on its side!  Two strands of metallic floss were used for lacing.  The sparkle seems to have gotten lost.  Below left is a closeup of the lace yarn I used.  If I pulled it taut I would just have a line of navy; however, the looseness and ease of the yarn made it possible for me to pouf  it  out.  If this section looks uneven, it is.  I laid out the foundation bars in a gentle wave.  The the rows of stitching are parallel, so the lacing follows the undulation.  A less bulky yarn would have shown this better.      The fourth segment is an experiment that didn't work for me here with my choice of lacing yarn, a tweed, cabled cotton in a heavy worsted weight.  My plan began with the base of detached chains with the tack-down stitches pointing inwards to accomodate a  second lacing.  Nothing I had on hand provided enough contrast, so I left it bare, and although it begs for further embellishment in the center, you can see the design I was going for with the graduated spacing of upper and bottom chain stitches.  Here the center anchors are beads which stay in a straight line unlike the beads in the previous section which parallel the top and  bottom rows.
The final section of the sampler shows top and bottom row anchors as bullion stitches.  I am definitely not proud of these.  They have a rather gnarly appearance mainly because of insuffienct wraps.  I used beads again for the center row.  I would have used them to help camoflauge or tidy up the bad bullions, but I didn't want to waste the beads.  Lesson learned.