Thursday, December 31, 2020

Looking Back at 2020

2020 has been a strange year. I traveled for work twice before we went into lock down. Vacations were cancelled all around and a lot of time was spent at home. We've all moved to meeting online, even my local guild embraced Zoom. I was able to see members I never get to meet as they usually join the day meeting while I only went to the evening meeting. One of the best things that happened in my opinion in 2020 that I hope will continue, many teachers have decided to start online embroidery classes. It doesn't replace taking in person classes but it sure is more affordable when you don't have to account for travel costs.

Another one for the plus side, my collaboration with the French Needle has continued. I had the chance to work on some beautiful pieces. 

I worked on my finishing skills, getting more familiar with my sewing machine. I even made masks for the family.

Finally plucked up the courage to start one of my Hazel Blomkamp kits. Midnight Meander came out so beautifully, I definitely want to work on another one in 2021.

The oldest WIP in my roster, Bramble and the Rose was completed. Amazing considering where this piece was this time last year where I was still trying to finish that one page to reach the bottom right corner. I'm now working on doing the finishing, so there will be a second "finish" for this piece.

I was interviewed by Gary Parr and Beth Ellicott on FiberTalk which was an amazing experience. Following that I decided to join them on their Dawn to Dusk SAL which was fun.

One project that was so close to being finished but didn't make it was Tracery Dragons. It only had the backstitch left. Not sure why, but a few days before the end of the year I suddenly woke and decided this should be my last finish of the year. Sadly it didn't make it, but it will be my first finish of the year instead.

December TUSAL Finale

The last TUSAL was the most colorful thanks to Jen's Colorwheel. 

Check out how full my jar was this year. There are also scraps of fabric in there but it's mostly threads I promise. I'm way behind on posts, so I'm off to writing my review of the year and the plans for 2021. There is lots coming up soon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Blackwork Color Wheel - New Start

Now that I've completed Dawn to Dusk, I can start a new project. Spoiler alert, I'm way more ahead than I should be. I couldn't help it, this piece is absolutely addictive. The design I decided to start is a "blackwork" Color Wheel embroidery kit by Jen Goodwin Embroidery. I'm using quotation marks because blackwork is traditionally stitched in all black and this one uses lots and lots of colors.

To be honest, I don't think I would have purchased a blackwork kit if it wasn't for all those colors. You'll understand once you see the contents of the kit. I love those pastels!

(click on the post to see the video below)

The fabric comes un-printed, with the design printed on paper to be transferred using tack lines. I find printing paper too thick for this method and prefer using tissue paper. However, I want perfect curves so redrawing by hand is not an option. One of the things I've been learning during COVID is Islamic Geometry, and using a compass to draw them. This particular shape is actually a circle split into seven equal parts. I also learned how to find the center of a circle, thank you Youtube!

As this is a small design, I'm using stretcher bars for this project. You can use a hoop, but I like to avoid hoop marks when I can.

The design is transferred onto the fabric using tack lines as they are temporary. Once the entire piece is stitches, they will be carefully removed.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Before starting, I moved the threads to a larger ring and inserted a label to identify the color groups. Each set of threads is used at a different level in the flower. It is very important that they stay in the exact same order they came in as otherwise you won't get the same effect.

Blackwork patterns look complicated at first glance, but they can be simplified by breaking them down into layers. The patterns in this design can be broken into two layers: horizontal and vertical. I found that by stitching one layer for colors, makes it easier for me to put in the partial stitches needed where they meet, before doing the next layer.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I must say I haven't been able to set it aside once I started. The stitching also goes buy so fast once you memorize the pattern. That's also a pitfall. The pattern changes once you reach the third layer and despite the fact that I had studied the diagram, my muscle memory went ahead and replicated the old pattern. Luckily I realized my mistake by the third color change so it wasn't too bad of a fix.

I will be off starting Friday afternoon for my annual two week stitching holiday. I'm so looking forward to it. So far the plan is to work on this piece and Hiogi, but primarily Hiogi as I'd like to get that piece finished next year. I also need to start thinking of what my new years day start will be.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Dawn to Dusk - Finished!

I didn't post last week as I was so close to a finish, I decided to skip one week. Dawn to Dusk was just about done, all that was left was the outer border and the beading on the brocade. 

It took a full weekend to stitch the outer border. You can't see all the stitches, but I stitched around that border five times.

It took two evenings to complete the beading.

And it's done! I really enjoyed stitching this piece but I do admit that brocade was really tough to get through. Whatever you do, don't leave it till the end!

I tried taking pictures showing the sparkle of the piece but couldn't get it across. Still, you can appreciate the textures all the different materials give it. By the way, I didn't end up modifying the last motif. I was convinced not to change it, but I think by then I was ready to move on so it wasn't very hard to do. I also had to share a picture of the back, the brocade reminded me so much of tweed fabric.

For those curious about the kit, I purchased mine directly from Karen Dudzinski and she includes full skeins and reels of everything. I have lots leftover to bling other projects and way more of that ribbon than I'd like. I'm not a big fan of ribbon embroidery no matter how pretty.

As for Dawn to Dusk, it's going into storage with my other canvas pieces waiting to be framed. I'll probably frame it once the COVID situation is better. I normally say this will be the last canvas piece I do, but I learned my lesson last time. You never know what piece you'll come across and fall in love with. So I will keep an open mind.

Monday, December 7, 2020

November TUSAL

My ORT jar is so full this month. I really should have taken a side view of my jar but I didn't think about it at the time and I've already emptied it out. I did complete Dawn to Dusk, I'll post pictures of it very soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Dawn to Dusk - Motif 4-1, 4-2 & 4-3

Still pushing hard on Dawn to Dusk. I completed the last row of eight pointed stars. The first one went by so fast.

This one took a bit longer. I stitched every cross stitch one at a time so I don't get stripes from the variegated thread. You can barely see it.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

The third one is done, but I don't feel like it's done if that make sense. When compared to all the other motifs it feels like it's missing something. After thinking about it, I realized that this is the only motif that didn't use the variegated thread. I'm going to set it aside for now, but I will most likely get back to it later. Maybe fill in the empty corners?

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Here's an overview after finishing the last star. I still have one brocade missing the gold layer that needs to be finished.

I really should have worked on that brocade, but I couldn't stop myself from starting the padded border. Satin stitch is so satisfying to stitch.

By the way, I finally revisited the first motif. The center is supposed to be filled with French knots. I was thinking of filling it with seed beads, but it looked too bulky. I happened to have an extra flower bead in my kit (you get 6 in the kit but only require 5), which worked perfectly in the center.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dawn to Dusk - Motif 3-1, 3-2 & 3-3

I've been really pushing hard on Dawn to Dusk. I completed the third row of eight pointed stars and the third layer for 2 out of the 4 brocades that are left.

The patterns on this row are really pretty. I enjoyed the rice stitch on this one.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

The second motif looks like a clock.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I got to practice the buttonhole stitch in the third motif. This one took a little more time to do than the other as there were multiple steps. I did make a few changes, I replaced the French knots with Japanese knots and a copper bead from the kit to hold the charm in place instead of a French knot.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I'm really close to a finish. I'm going to aim to get the third brocade layer for the last two areas done by Monday. That means, I'll only have the last row, beading and the border left to do.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Bramble and the Rose - Next Step

I set myself a goal last week to start the finishing process of Bramble and the Rose. My mom took a liking to it and said she'd like it as a table center. The only directive I had was to keep it as big as I could. 

After some counting and measuring (with lots of hemming and hawing), I figured out how much I would need to do a proper hem with mitered corners while still getting the overall size my mom wanted. There will be an outer drawn/pulled thread border and a smaller inner border. The space between will have some stitching around the corners.

For the curious, I used Christine Bishop's book on Schwalm Embroidery for the hem instructions.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I started working on the outer border. I've already drawn the threads and now am doing the first round of pulled thread, making sure to miter the corners.

Once I've completed the first round, I'll be going around the outer border again to pull the threads into the final pattern. I'm still trying to figure out what effect I want, using Luzine Happel's book Fancy Hems. I should be doing that this weekend if all goes well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Shifting Focus

Lately I'd been losing my interest in Hiogi. I still very much want to learn Japanese embroidery, but I'm not as in love with the piece itself. I'm happy to say my interest is back. Small wins are great motivators. 

For this month's session, I shifted my attention to the cords. Here's what they looked like the last time I touched them.

I concentrated on the top cord in dark purple as it needed to be done to work on the cord behind it, and decided to continue onto the tassel.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I forgot how much I enjoyed stitching the cord in class. The tassel took a bit more thinking as the light and dark purple are blended together. It's not completed yet. I still have to put in some short stitches over the blended area to hide where the two colors share a hole, there are also Japanese knots and some vertical lines to add to define the shape of the head and body of the tassel. It will take another session or two.

Enthusiasm is running high, I'm hoping to work on the blended area on Friday (Hurrah for half days!), and maybe do the other steps on the weekend. We'll see! Once that's done I think I will shift to the handle of the fan as it's on top of the cords. It's made up of couched gold, so I will probably work on it more often than usual. I don't have a goldwork piece in my rotation and kind of miss it.

Monday, November 2, 2020

October TUSAL

Dawn to Dusk took over my ORT jar this month. I spent all weekend on it, really concentrating on the brocade. I was originally going to finish the first layer only and reward myself with filling a star, but it went so well I just kept going to the second layer.

Some stuff came up last week and my goals have shifted as it looks like I will have a few new projects coming in, especially in December and January. These projects will require big frames for the most part and in order to save space, I decided I need to finish Dawn to Dusk by December. Tight schedule I know, but I think I can manage it and finishing the brocade will definitely help. I feel like a fire has been lit in me and I'm excited to start. A big change in attitude from last week.

I'm looking at my other WIPs to see what other pieces I can clear up and realised I never posted an update on Bramble and the Rose. I completed all the cross stitch about three weeks ago, but you haven't seen the end of that piece yet. I've decided not to frame it but to turn it into a table center. I will be adding a drawn thread border and hemming the edges. I know what I need to do, I just need to execute at this point. I think I will make one of my goals for this week to start the process, so I can share pictures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dawn to Dusk - Brocade

I wasn't planning on sharing an update on this piece until I finished the first row of brocade. However, progress has been very slow as I've been in a slump. It's one part me and one part brocade. I'm sure you'll understand when you see the cheer amount of repetitive stitching and layers involved.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

The brocade is made of up 4 layers: lines in white going vertically and horizontally to form squares, a sort of pop corn stitch in black inside the white squares (you'll have to enlarge the picture to see them), this is then surrounded by stitches in gold thread and finally beads.

I haven't reached the beading yet. I've been stitching each layer on both areas at the same time and I just completed the third layer on one of them. After working on the brocade, I understand why they would be treated as their own row. If you didn't they would never get done. I will have to rethink my strategy if I want to finish this piece before end of year.

Now onto the me part of the slump. I've been thinking about it for a very long time and I think it's directly related to the fact that my stitching area and my "work" area are sharing the same space. It's not very conducive for any relaxation, especially as our work days have been getting longer. I can't move either of them out of my room as I like to have my computer for playing videos while stitching and I need the quiet space for all those meetings we have everyday. What I can do is re-organize the layout of my desk.

I didn't take a before picture to share, but believe me it was a disaster. I forgot how wide my desk is, as I had things piled on both ends of the desk. The screen was also moved from the corner to the center, so all in all it feels like a brand new workspace. There are still a few things that need to find a new home but I already feel much better.