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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another new start!

Ok, for those of you keeping track, this is the fourth piece I've started in May. First, the blackberries on gauze as an EGA chapter project, then the two seminar pieces, and now the new Jim Wurth piece! As I mentioned before, I have to keep up with this series, because I don't want 12 more unstitched yet-kitted pieces in my stash. So, when Arcadia arrived in today's mail, I took it with me to our Thursday stitch night at my LNS.If this reminds you of Monrovia, a previous piece in this series, you're pretty observant! It was actually designed as a companion. Jim had intended to release it later in the series, but health issues forced him to take a bit of a break, so he released this one earlier than intended rather than design a new one right now. He's also slowing the pace of the series down to one every three months instead of every other month. Which is just fine with me! We need our designers healthy so they can keep tempting us with great pieces. Best of luck to Jim! The slower pace also might help me finish a few other pieces besides these beautiful ornaments.

Anyway, tonight I mounted the canvas and started the outline. I didn't get very far, but here's a picture. You can also see the new "big head" tacks my LNS is carrying. Supposedly these are used somehow in quilting (not being a quilter, I don't know - can anyone share how they're used?), but the LNS owner was raving about them for stretching canvas. I have to admit, they seem much more sturdy than the other tacks she carries. Hopefully they'll keep the canvas tight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Recreating a 17th Century-style jacket

You may have noticed a new blog in my list of favorites. The Embroiderers' Story is a blog from Plimoth Plantation, documenting the museum's work on a 17th century-style embroidered jacket. It's not a strict recreation, though. They're taking the cut of one jacket in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, with the embroidery of another.

The most exciting part of this project is that they're looking for help from the stitching community. If you can take the time to visit Plymouth, Massachusetts (and can afford to stay locally) during one of their stitching weekends, you can help! The curator says that you don't have to be an expert embroiderer. They're sending out a sample kit to those who would like to volunteer. You stitch the sample and send it back in. They look at what stitches are done well, but also for tension, so they can match tension in adjacent areas. If you're really good in one stitch, they can put you to work just doing that one stitch! For more details, see this post.

Speaking of stitches, that's one of the best things on this blog. The museum is working with Tricia Wilson-Nguyen of Thistle Threads to put together the sample kits and write up instructions for individual stitches and instructions for areas of the jacket. Some of the most recent blog postings are providing links to PDFs of the various stitches used. As a matter of fact, the day after I posted about trellis stitch, this blog provided detailed instructions for it!

So, while I won't be able to stitch on this fantastic project, I'm going to enjoy following its progress. The fantastic stitch instructions are a bonus!


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Goldwork Heart II - background is done!

Over two months ago, I started the background on my Goldwork Heart II (a retired ANG GCC from Michele Roberts). Because I had been doing so much double-running work on a recent finish, I decided to try a different type of blackwork background, done all in running stitch. See my previous posts about this background - here and here.

I'm dancing now because the background is done! This single-running blackwork was actually ideal for the piece, because the gold thread was quite stiff, and I didn't have to turn as sharply as in double running. I kept all of the thread ends on the outside of the background (not ending in the middle of the heart).

After the background was all done, I used a size 12 pearl cotton and did a tent stitch over 2 all the way around the outside, pulling the thread ends to the back of the work as I went. Each end was stitched over at least 1/2", and then cut off. Here's the finished result. I'm not too concerned with how this outline looks, because it will not show when it's framed. This is just a way to tie off all of the ends.

This background is the same pattern on front and back, but it is not in the same place. On the back, it's actually offset by half of the pattern width and height. It's easiest to show this at a corner. Here's the top right corner of the piece from the front:

And from the back:

Now I can get started on the "real" goldwork part of the piece!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Examplar IV: A Trellis Stitch Strawberry

The past two nights I've been working on Examplar IV. I've finished all the single-strand tendrils and strawberry tops. Each side of the border is different. The tendrils and leaves are the same on top and right, but the tendrils change on the other two sides. Some sides have symrna cross leaves, others have queen stitch leaves. And the strawberries are made with different stitches on each of the four sides!

I've started a strawberry on the top in a cross stitch variation, but I really wanted to try the trellis stitch. I only stitched it on a tiny doodle during the class. After MIL mentioned that this stitch is covered in detail in Darlene O'Steen's The Proper Stitch, I put this book to real use (i.e. not just browsing & drooling!) for the first time since I picked it up at the end of last year. Here is the result. I'm pretty happy with it, considering I hadn't done this stitch prior to last week in class.

I'm off to try another strawberry...

(Edited to add a link to trellis stitch instructions, as found in one of Jane Nicholas's books. I hadn't tried Google's Book Search feature before, but it's really useful!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Class Pieces from seminar

In Monday's post, I mentioned the two classes I had taken, but didn't show any progress pictures on them. We made quite a bit of progress on Kathy Fenchel's Picnic Hampered! in class.
While all of the raised work is a bit of a challenge, the most challenging part is the tree! I'm an engineer, so my brain has been trained to work in straight lines. This works wonderfully for charted pieces, geometrics, etc. Kathy urged us to make our trees look natural, the more gnarled the better - i.e. messy. So, I tacked down some brown felt (used to pad the basket) to add some lumpiness to the tree, and started to stitch up the tree in all the colors of brown and black in the kit. This uses chain stitch, stem stitch, outline stitch, and wrapped backstitch. I'm leaving the thread ends out front, and stitching right over them. If they get wrapped up in the stitches, all the better! So, while messy is not a word I frequent in my stitching vocabulary, I'm trying my hardest to make it so. And part of that is just not trying - just letting it happen.

The other class plays more to my neat and precise stitching mind (although my family will tell you that I'm rarely neat anywhere else!). Here is the bit of progress made on Catherine Theron's Examplar IV. Since then I've finished the strawberry stems all the way around, and have started to add the curliques to the vine.

Four of us took these two classes, and the other three all agreed with me when I mentioned that while both of these pieces were going to be a challenge, they both suited a different stitching mood. As a result, both will have their place in my (rather loose) stitching rotation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Seminar Exhibit - Before and After!

*** Warning - picture intensive post!!! ***

Before - Very Boring:

After - Fun to browse!

No other words are needed! :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back from seminar!

Wow, what a trip! Last night I returned from the Mid-Eastern Region EGA seminar in Chautauqua, NY.

My MIL & I left Wednesday morning at 8:30, arriving at Bellinger Hall on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution sometime around noon. We found the room in which the exhibit was to be held, and started labeling the pieces that had already been brought in by our fellow seminar workers. We ordered out for subs for us and for those doing setup of the vendor and registration areas, the opportunity baskets, and classrooms.

At some point we registered, got our room keys, and brought our luggage in. The rooms were not fancy - just dorm rooms with single beds, a small desk and wardrobe for each, and a shared bath for every two rooms. Most people, including us, specified that we wanted a private bath, so, for the most part, only every other room was populated.

By 6:00 PM Wednesday most of the exhibit entries had arrived, and some folks went out to dinner. I joined the crew that shared 6 delivered pizzas! After dinner, four of us went to work setting up the exhibit, and were done by around 9:15. (I'll share before and after pictures tomorrow, since I don't have the camera hooked up right now!) In all, we had about 65 pieces of needlework on display.

On Wednesday night, the bed I occupied was the hardest bed I had ever used. It seemed to me that I didn't sleep much, but I think I just kept waking up - frequently. MIL had brought a pillow from home, and gave me the one on her bed. I ended up sleeping on it, just so my back wouldn't be on the hard bed.

A routine started as of Thursday:

  • wake up at six, take turns getting ready (and stitching while the other was doing so).
  • breakfast at 7:30 - eating and lots of chatting.
  • back to the room to pick up stuff for class at 9.
  • At 11:55, run out of class to get the exhibit opened at noon. Coach the three people who signed up to monitor it, and trust that they'll figure out how to take turns monitoring and getting their lunches.
  • 12:10 - Go have lunch, and compare notes with people in other classes.
  • 1:15 - the exhibit (and the attached vendor area) is supposed to close, provided we can get excited stitchers to finish up purchases and viewing, and find the guy who's supposed to lock everything up. A couple of times I resorted to flickering the lights so people would look at their watches and realize they had 10 minutes to get back to class!
  • 1:30-4:30 - back in class.
  • 4:45 - repeat the exhibit opening routine, then shop for a bit, and actually take time to look at the exhibit! Once I actually had time for a bit of a walk outside!
  • 6:00 - exhibit closed again, and we all head to dinner.
  • 7:30 - exhibit opens, coach more helpers, etc. I usually headed back to my room for a bit of quiet time!
  • 9:00 - exhibit closes for the night. Then I could find the ladies from my chapter who tended to meet in somebody's room, with hilarity ensuing! We had about 17 people from our chapter there, and all of them are lots of fun!
  • Somewhere around 11:00-12:00 - clean up, change into pj's and tumble into bed.
The funny thing was that the bed became more comfortable every night! :-)

As for the classes, they were both great. The sampler class with Catherine Theron was pretty packed, with maybe 17 people. She handled it wonderfully, going over a stitch or two and giving us lots of time to practice and add it to our sampler. We finished going over all of the stitches by 11:00 on Friday, and then we reviewed all the central motifs in the sampler, going over what stitches were used where. Again, she broke this up, going over two to three motifs, then giving us time to stitch before we went on and talked about other motifs. By the end of class on Friday I had the main vine of the border done all the way around - and it met correctly!!!

Saturday and Sunday was Kathy Fenchel's Picnic Hampered! This is another fun piece, with plenty of challenges of its own, but it's a completely different "mood" than the sampler. There were only 6 other people in this class, three of whom were in the sampler class with me. I think we're all having more difficulty with stitching messy, random tree bark than with the detached buttonhole on the sampler! One of the other people in this class was Karen Wojahn, the national president of EGA. She sat next to me, and I was honored to get to know this lovely lady a bit!

Since the opportunity basket drawings were scheduled for lunchtime on Sunday, and we were all going to leave right after class, Saturday evening was the last exhibit showing. A few people in Studio Time were going to take down the exhibit on Sunday. As I was shutting things down Saturday, the vendors were starting to pack up. One of the vendors had brought 10 items to the exhibit, and requested hers back. I pulled all of hers, and mine, and MIL's, just to get them out of the way. Then, the owner of the pegboards we had used decided she wanted those back now, so I pulled the rest of the items off the pegboards. I was reluctant to leave a partially-disassembled exhibit open as the vendors were carting out their things, so I found a few more exhibitors in the dining room and offered to give them their pieces at that time. I found the ladies from my chapter, and got those out, too. So, out of 19 exhibitors, I distributed pieces back to all but 4 on Saturday night. A glass of wine later, and I slept the night through!

I took today as a vacation day, figuring that I'd need a day to recover, and I'm sure glad I did! Seminar was great, but it was also very tiring!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happy Birthday to me...

Yup. It's that day. My company has given us our birthdays off this year, so I've been home all day but haven't picked up a needle! I've been working on stuff for the exhibit and washing clothes to go to seminar.

I'm so excited! This is my first seminar, regional or otherwise! I went to CATS a few years ago, but really want the longer classes that seminar offers. I'm taking two 2-day classes: Examplar IV from Catherine Theron and Picnic Hampered! by Kathy Fenchel. Plus with the exhibit, boutique, a teacher's showcase one evening and merchandise night another, it will be 4 days of nothing but needlework! I'll be back Sunday night, but I'm taking Monday off from work to recover! :-)

Anyway, when I've found some time to pick up a needle, I've been working on the Gay Ann Rogers mystery piece. I finished the bedroom, and have been plugging away on some of the borders.

I love the bedroom - this is the only time I've been able to say I stitched an entire sampler in under an hour!

I found out this week that some of the Jim Wurth kits for May will be shipped late. Since I was one of the later people to sign up for the series, my guess is that my kit will be delayed. With two new projects from seminar, though, I don't think I'll miss it too much!

I probably won't get a chance to post tomorrow morning before I leave. Stay tuned for a full seminar report on Monday!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Busy, busy! And silk gauze progress...

Well, this has been the longest gap between postings since I started the blog. I've been busy with stitching-related stuff, but haven't been stitching much. On Wednesday I leave for our EGA region seminar. I'm the exhibit chair, so this week has been crazy with prep work, printing placards, making sure I have all the right forms, etc.

Yesterday was my cousin's wedding (see this post for the item I stitched for the couple!). I saw them this morning for a brunch, but I don't think they had opened their gifts yet.

Today I picked up one counted canvas piece from my LNS/framer. I finished Silk Pageantry, an ANG GCC by Kay Cline, several months ago, but just had it framed so I can put it in the seminar exhibit. I tried to take a picture, but it didn't turn out very well since the piece is still in the clear plastic bag from the framer. Since I intend to transport it to seminar that way, I don't want to take it out of the bag. I promise to share a pic when I get back from seminar!

Since I saw Mom at the brunch and she didn't feel up to anything else today, after I returned from the framer I did some work out in the yard. I then did some "silk gauze gardening" while watching the Yankees game. I almost have one whole blackberry leaf!
I'm not sure if I like the lightest green. It seems a bit too yellow. I have to revisit my stash of Eterna silks to see if I can find something light with a bit more blue in it.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Window 2 arrived!

The second surprise window in the Gay Ann Rogers mystery sampler arrived in Monday's mail. I started it last evening. As you can see in the picture, this window shows "The Bedroom". I should be able to show the finished room by Friday. I have a sampler to stitch on the wall, the bedroom window, and a couple of floorboards, and this window will be done!

Here are the main sections I've stitched so far. You can see that I was too impatient to finish stitching the borders before I started this window! :-) Once I've finished the bedroom, I'll go back to the borders.

Monday, May 7, 2007

How-To: Mount silk gauze on muslin

Tonight was our monthly EGA meeting. For the program, one of the members (Hi Dorothy!) shared her method for mounting silk gauze on muslin so it can be stretched for stitching. I took pictures along the way so I could share here!

Step 1. If your chart is not kitted with a piece of gauze, determine the finished size of the design on silk gauze by dividing the number of stitches in each direction by the thread count of the gauze, then add 1-2 inches (or as much needed by your framer) all around. Cut your gauze to this size. For example, my design is approximately 160 stitches square, and I'm doing it on 40 ct gauze, so the finished size will be around 160/40 = 4" square. I added a bit all around, so I'm working on a 7" square of gauze.

Step 2. Cut your muslin several inches larger than this. It depends on what kind of stretching device that you choose to use. I will be mounting mine on scroll rods, so I have a long piece of muslin (maybe 20"?) by 12". I didn't have the time to put it on the rods tonight, so I just used a large hoop. Find the center of your muslin. I did this by folding it in quarters and creasing it slightly.

Step 3. Roughly center the gauze piece on the muslin. (Sorry it's difficult to see this in the pic. There's not much contrast between the two fabrics!)

Step 4. Pin the gauze to the muslin around the outer edge, keeping the two fabrics as smooth as possible. (And if you're doing this on a plastic tablecloth, take care not to pin the whole thing TO the tablecloth. Trust me on this. Don't ask how I know! ) If your piece of gauze is smaller than 4" square or so, you might be able to skip this step.

Step 5. With a contrasting sewing thread, take running stitches around the edge of the gauze. I went around twice, staggering the stitches on the second round, since I had a large piece of gauze.

Step 6. With the MUSLIN side up, separate the two layers of fabrics. I used a needle through the muslin to pull it away from the gauze. In the middle of the area of the muslin/gauze sandwich, cut the muslin. Once you get it started in the middle of the area, you can slip a finger inside to keep the gauze away from the muslin as you cut close (about 1/8 of an inch or so) to the running stitches. (I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of this process!) Once the muslin is cut away, you'll have an exposed section of gauze.

Step 7. Put the muslin-mounted gauze on your choice of stitching frame. It doesn't matter if it's gauze-side up or muslin-side up. To begin stitching, it's easiest to find the middle. Here's my trick for finding the middle of any mounted fabric or canvas, if all of the ground fabric is showing. Simply take two long threads, and lay them in an "X", corner to corner, across the fabric. The center of the X is the middle of your fabric!

Step 8. Have fun stitching! I recommend really bright light and good magnification, if needed!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Stitch in Time: Lilacs on gauze

Yesterday, I mentioned that I'll be starting a silk gauze piece on Monday. This will not be my first gauze project from a chart by Gitta's.

A few years ago, my job required that I make a trip to Toronto (Mississauga, actually) once a month or so. This is a fairly easy car trip of about 3 hours from my home. On only one trip did I have time to visit a few needlework shops in the area, and one of those I visited was Gitta's. I fell in love with several of their floral pieces, and though the shop models were on canvas, I thought they would be stunning on gauze. Naturally, I picked up a few charts!

I have so far only stitched one of these charts, with Eterna silks (as I explained yesterday). I couldn't be more pleased with the finished piece, Lilacs. It's difficult to tell by the picture, but the stitching measures only about 2" wide and 4" tall. I chose this as the first of the charts to stitch because in my area, lilacs bloom for my birthday, and our city has an annual Lilac Festival with hundreds of the bushes in bloom at a local park. The sight of these always makes me smile!

Apparently I'm not the only person who likes the finished piece! I'm proud to say that this piece won People's Choice both at the last judged show held by my EGA chapter and at the showcase at Hershey CATS in 2002.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Finished Living Room

I know - I've been a delinquent blogger, but Window 1 is done! Gay Ann was able to capture an amazing amount of detail with just a few simple stitches in a really small space. I look forward to receiving the next window. This weekend I'll continue working on this piece, preparing the borders around the next section.This evening I spent some time pulling my threads for the project I'm starting in my EGA meeting on Monday. One of our chapter members will be showing us how to mount silk gauze on muslin so it can be stitched using Q-Snaps, a hoop, stretcher bars, etc. I've stitched on silk gauze before, but I've always had it taped to mat board to stretch it, but the fabric becomes loose easily this way. I hope this new method allows me to keep it taut.

So, what's the new project? It's chart G-230, Blackberries, from Gitta's Charted Petit Point. I picked up the chart and the 40ct gauze this week at my LNS. I'll be stitching this using Eterna stranded silk, which has almost no twist to it. It is almost a flat silk, which means it has great shine, since there are few twists to distort the light. It is also somewhat difficult to work with, since any little dry spot on your hands will snag the silk fibers. Despite this, I like to use this thread on silk gauze because it somewhat spreads out to fill the space available, so little inconsistencies in tension aren't as apparent.

Besides, when this thread first came out, they offered a set of full skeins of the entire color range (then 400+ colors) for only $100, including shipping! So I have plenty to choose from, and just have to comb through them a bit to find the right colors. The color conversion chart from DMC is not perfect, so it takes some time to get the right combination of colors. I think it's close right now, but need to check it again tomorrow in the daylight.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Window 1 progress

If you've checked out the group projects page on Gay Ann Rogers' website, it will come as no surprise that the first surprise window is a living room. (And if you look, please don't tell me what window #2 is! I want to be surprised when it arrives in my mailbox!) Here's my progress on the living room so far.

It's impressive how much detail is in such a small space. I really enjoy watching the scene come to life under my fingers. With the size of this area, it shouldn't take too long to finish this window, and then I can move on to more of the borders, so I can be ready when window 2 arrives.