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Monday, March 31, 2008

Queen Stitch strawberries

On Saturday, I sent in my registration for EGA's national seminar. This year is EGA's 50th anniversary, and seminar promises to be spectacular. Since it's being held in Louisville, Kentucky, home of national headquarters, one of the advantages is that we'll get to see the National Exhibit! I've never been to a national seminar before, and am really looking forward to this. Now to see what classes I get!


To ensure the colors dried completely, I wanted to wait a bit before continuing with Winds of Color. For a change of pace, I picked up Catherine Theron's Examplar IV. I started this at the regional seminar last year, and thought it would be a good idea to make some progress before national comes and more class pieces find their way into my WIP pile.

Continuing around the border, on Saturday and Sunday I stitched the strawberries at the bottom. These are stitched in queen stitch. This stitch was one I struggled with for years, until I took a class with Eileen Bennett. I found that, contrary to my brain's logic, they really do work best if stitched left to right and all tacking stitches are taken right to left (or vise versa - tied down stitches right to left, tacking stitches left to right). They don't turn out the same if you do the two outside (or inside) tied down stitches first and take the tacking stitches always from the inside out. I don't know why. They also have to be stitched fairly tightly. (If anyone wants to see this stitch done step by step, let me know, and I'll try to do a queen stitch tutorial and take pictures along the way.)

Ok, Blogger's being stubborn and won't let me upload the picture of the entire piece. It will have to wait!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Coloring Winds

In my last post, I mentioned that I was stuck on a part of Winds of Color. I'd been working the sections of the design in the order they showed up in the instructions (in case you were wondering why I was jumping around so much). After I finished the areas of underside couching (areas 11, 11a, 12), I read ahead a bit.

The instructions for area 14 say something about "the greyed areas of the canvas". Ummm... my area 14 isn't shaded at all. Ok, how about 14a: "area is painted in a very dark tone". Mine must be a very dark white!

There's an explanation for this. This was originally designed as a teaching piece, and part of the class time was designated for coloring areas of the canvas. When I ordered it, many years after it was originally taught, the canvas came colored already, but apparently a couple of areas were missed. Unfortunately, the instructions didn't provide details for the "permanent marking pens" called out on the materials page. I emailed Elsa Parrish, the designer.

In the meantime, I stitched a bit on areas of the sky. Here are areas 16 (dark blue) and 16a (lavender), both done in open versions of encroaching gobelin. I also started area 18, the background sky, stitched in a darning stitch.

It turned out that Ms. Parrish replied very promptly to tell me the type of marker (Prismacolor) and the colors I needed. Yesterday, I took my canvas to a local art store. The store didn't have the complete line of Prismacolor pens, but I was able to find colors that were fairly close to the originals. When I got home, I very carefully colored in the areas (area 14a was particularly tough, since it was completely surrounded by stitching), and managed to get just a minimal amount of ink on the surrounding threads. (I figure that will help the areas blend better. :-P )
I also put a very light layer of the navy color on top of the existing mottling of area 17. I had tried to start that area, but it's a very open stitch, and the white was just too stark. I'm also thinking of taking out the darning stitches in the sky and trying to darken that area a bit. What do you think?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sky & Clouds

Since I last posted about Elsa Parrish's Winds of Color, it's progressed nicely.

On the right side, an area with double hungarian stitch with blended threads has been added. This area was an interesting challenge because instead of stitching full stitch repeats with a given color, the emphasis was on directing the colors through the full shape of the area. I started with the lightest color, working it down and to the right, doing parts of the stitch repeats. After I thought I had enough of that color, I blended two strands of the lightest with two strands of the next shade, working around the previous stitches. The toughest part was keeping an eye on the stitch pattern to make sure it would work out after the other colors were added.

Three areas of underside couching have been stitched, also. (Actually, it's called underside couching in the instructions; I didn't pull the top thread to the back as is shown in the link. There are just tiny couching stitches on top of the fabric.) These areas are the gray cloud on the left side, the area under the green trees, and the light blue/lavender areas of the sky. It's really neat how the couching enhances the coloration of the background without overwhelming it.

I've got some questions about two of the areas that are up soon, so I've emailed the designer. I guess I'll be skipping ahead to other areas as I continue to work on this.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everybody! May your day be blessed with all you enjoy (including a bit of stitching!). Here are a few freebies to help:

Of course, you can also visit my links from last year, too.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Recent stash acquisitions

Ever since I saw Elisabeth's review of the new Alison Cole book All That Glitters, I've been hoping my LNS would get it in. Much to my surprise, the owner did have one copy in last week, and three of us in the Thursday night group signed up to get the three additional copies coming in. They showed up this week. This book has wonderful photos of some really amazing embroidery, in addition to decent illustrations and instructions for those techniques specific to goldwork and stumpwork. While I won't be starting anything like these projects anytime soon, it's fun to read through and be awed by the work!

Yesterday I took the day off from work. MIL and I went to a not-so-LNS about two hours away. A Stitcher's Garden has a different selection than some of our more local shops, tending more toward samplers, including lots of hand-dyed linen. Between thumbing through these and a good sampling of the new stuff from the Nashville market, we both left the store with some fun new purchases!

I purchased:

  • A Very Good Year by Prairie Moon. I probably won't stitch this as shown, but I really liked the three medallions!
  • Seasons of the Trees by Rosewood Manor. I already have the chart for And a Forest Grew, and couldn't resist this companion.
  • AlphaBlu by Courtney Collection, with 36ct Golden Harvest linen from R&R Reproductions. This will go really well with the framed Celtic Banner from MLI hanging in my dining room. I'm thinking that Vikki Clayton's Kodiakery will work well with this fabric, and I just happen to have a spool of it!
  • Small pieces (around 7" x 9") of 40 ct Daily Grind and Creme Brulee from R&R. These will work for future exchange pieces.
I'm hoping to post again tomorrow, but if I don't get around to it, I hope everyone (who celebrates it) has a very happy and blessed Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Improved color transition

In my post last Sunday (has it really been that long?), I mentioned that I didn't like the color transitions in the right side of the scarf on Winds of Color. I didn't like the compensation I was using. Here's how it looked:See all of those itty bitty stitches along the line where the color changed? They broke up the repeat of the stitch pattern. It looked awkward, plus it was nearly impossible to continue the stitch sequence on the left side of the transition.

A bit of ripping ensued. I then restitched the transition without breaking up any of the stitch pattern. The result: Even though the color transition is a bit more chopped up when observed closely, when you take a step back, it flows better because the stitches themselves aren't split up between colors. (i.e. I'm not breaking up an over-two stitch into two separate over-one stitches in two different colors.) This looks much better and it's easier to keep the stitch pattern going.

The lady is slowly progressing!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Blogoversary & Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's a double celebration here on Just String today.

Of course, it's St. Patrick's Day! I'm only Irish by marriage, but everyone's Irish today, right?

It also happens to be my blogoversary! I have no recollection why I might have chosen St. Patty's day to start my blog. I don't think it was a conscious decision. It just happened! If you missed it, you can check out my very first post here.

It's been a fun year, and when I look back, I realize I accomplished quite a lot of stitching. I also managed 178 posts over the course of the year, and "met" several friends. Thank you all for visiting! Your comments always make my day!

To celebrate, here's a slideshow of all the pieces I've finished over the past year. I really think sharing my progress on this blog helps me focus on actually completing things. When I think about the challenges I've set for myself, I consider them more seriously because I've shared them. Any of you could call me out if I just blow them off! :-) Thank you!!

My apologies for not posting any freebies as I usually do for holidays. I'll try to remember on the 16th next year!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Winds & new storage

The lady is progressing a bit slowly this week. One of her scarves is done on the left side, and the part in progress on the right is meant to be part of a scarf also.

This scarf is done in Hungarian stitch, but the colors are changing along the length, too. The shading technique used here is called "hardside shading", and only a single color of thread is used in the needle at any one time (as opposed to blending threads in the needle). In this technique, when you reach the line marking the color change, the stitch is supposed to be compensated.

The trouble is, it's really tough to keep the pattern of the stitch in such a skinny area, especially with all the compensating stitches. I going to frog (rip-it!) a bit and not compensate in the middle of a stitch length. I may still do, for example, the first stitch (over 2) with one color, then the remaining two stitches of the pattern (over 4, then over 2) with another color, but I don't think I like splitting a given stitch length. The pattern of the stitches should show up better if I don't compensate the stitch lengths, and I'll enjoy stitching it more. Does that make sense? I'll try to take a before and after picture to explain when I rip it out tomorrow.

On another note, I bought a new floss cabinet today! For the first time ever, I visited the local "Christmas Tree Shops". It's an odd name for a discount store, but it's appropriate at least for one season out of the year! This store opened over a year ago, and I had heard that some good deals could be had there. I didn't know what to really expect. It was sort of like "Target meets the dollar store". A friend said it was like a flea market - there was quite a bit of junk, but you could find really good stuff if you looked!

I picked up a few things, but the real reason I went was for a cabinet I saw in an ad. I couldn't find the cabinet advertised, but I did find a great 7-drawer lingerie chest - a.k.a. FLOSS CABINET! It was marked down from $130 to $100, and it was completely solid wood, and came fully assembled (except for the feet). I had brought a couple of Floss Away bags with me, and this worked perfectly!

When I got home, I made a few drawer dividers out of cardboard, and transferred my DMC collection to the cabinet. It took 3 of the seven drawers, but the bags fit perfectly, just as I hoped! I'm headed back tomorrow to buy another cabinet!

Check out the perfect fit:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Update on Winds of Color

For the last few days, I've been stitching on Winds of Color. I finished the lady's skin and the dark blue clouds surrounding the pink on the left side. These were all in basketweave. Today I completed the moon (which I originally thought was the sun, but the text says otherwise!) and the lavender areas around it. These areas were stitched in skip tent to let the shading of the background show through.

Unfortunately, the line through the middle of the section also shows through! On the picture of the finished piece, there is some stitching over that line, but I can't find anything in the directions that tells me what that stitch is. I think I'll try a stem or outline stitch.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Happy Dance: Camelot

The second attempt at stitching the center of Camelot was successful! This is such a cool stitch.

One of the best things about canvas is its ability to hold up to stitches like this. While this stitch could be done on a softer ground fabric like linen, the fabric would likely buckle. If you're intrigued by canvaswork, you might start with a freebie like the one I linked to in the last post or those on Rainbow Gallery's site.

Thanks again to Jim Wurth for another great design. Camelot is #9 in Jim's dodecagon series. It's good to finish another piece!* My stitching focus has now returned to Winds of Color. I'll probably pick up one of my other linen WIPs to alternate with this when I need a change of pace.

Pierrette asked how I was going to frame To the Acorn. I really don't know right now, but it doesn't matter, anyway. I'm taking this GCC through the CyberStitchers chapter of EGA, and it's due to be sent in for critique by mid-April. I can't frame it until it is returned. Then I'll probably take it in to my LNS. The owner has a real gift for helping customers make appropriate framing choices.

* Since this series is one of the exemptions to my WIP-loss challenge, the finish doesn't count against the challenge.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mini stitch retreat & Camelot progress

Today was the day scheduled for our local annual "March Madness" one-day stitch getaway at a local hotel. (Ok, so it's the same group that met in January for a similar get-together, but previously it's only been once a year!) Yesterday afternoon and evening the weather forecast was for 4 to 10" of snow & ice. Luckily, we fell on the short end of that, so while the roads were pretty slippery in the travel across town, they were passable, and we had a fun day of stitching, gabbing, and admiring each other's work.

I had great hopes of finishing Camelot during today's event, and almost accomplished it. The final step was a Double Fan Doubled, a stitch invented by Jean Hilton. (Carole Lake uses a variation of this stitch in a freebie pattern on her site, and describes the stitch well, so I won't try it here!) Unfortunately, in rushing to finish this before leaving, I didn't quite get the first part of the stitch centered or tensioned correctly, so it ended up lopsided. I frogged it when I got home.

I hope to post that this is finished tomorrow!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Dance: To the Acorn

Ok, it's been done for a few days, but I'm finally taking the time to get this post written! Here is To the Acorn by Pat Krahn, which is available as an EGA group correspondence course.

My final project looks very different from the original, because I completely changed the colors to those based on Caron Waterlilies #220, Cheyenne. It's on Platinum Belfast linen, and uses DMC pearl 8 & 12 in color 3033, along with Splendor from Rainbow Gallery, colors S889, S913, S937, S964, and S977.

The last area I stitched was the cutwork oak leaf. If anyone's interested, I'll do a post similar to the last one, showing this being worked in stages.

Since the pictures have gotten smaller and smaller as the sampler grew, here's a close-up of the bottom whitework area.

Before I forget, thanks to the many readers who left such great comments on the last post. To those of you who commented that you would be worried about cutting your fabric - remember: it's just string. If you cut the wrong thread, one can always be pulled from the edge of the linen and woven into place of the incorrectly cut thread!

Now I'm back to working on Jim Wurth's Camelot, then I'll pick up Winds of Color again.

This is my first finish for round 2 of my WIP-loss challenge! Two more to go, including Winds.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Peahole hemstitch

The peahole hemstitch (from Schwalm embroidery) is used in To the Acorn as the cutwork band in lesson 5. This blog entry was originally planned as a complete set of instructions on how to do this stitch. Here's the story of how the best laid plans sometimes go awry.

I started out taking pictures of each step. It starts with the empty area.

On the back of the piece, certain threads are cut in the middle of the band, drawn back to the edges, and woven in to the fabric for a short distance. (If you're curious, the pattern is: cut 1 thread, leave 4, cut 4, leave 4, cut 1, leave 4, cut 4, leave 4, cut 1.)

Returning to the front, a satin stitch is worked in pearl cotton over this woven area. The ends of the woven threads are then trimmed from the back of the piece.

A four-sided stitch is worked over the upper-most set of 4 threads.

I started the next row, in which, according to the instructions, the first 5 "legs" of the four-sided stitch are done, then two of the "bundles" are wrapped together before continuing with the four-sided stitch. I must have put that in and taken that out 4 or 5 times. The wraps kept sliding down to the bottom, and it didn't look at all like the pictures. I reread the page. I had a friend read the page. Neither of us could make it work. The text says this is a Schwalm embroidery stitch. I searched my stitch books (of which I have many, including 1 Schwalm book.) This stitch is in none of them.

In desperation, I consulted the bibliography at the end of the text. There are three Schwalm books listed, two of which are in German. I found that Threadneedle Street (a wonderful shop on the outskirts of Seattle) had all three books for a reasonable price. I ordered them on Thursday. They arrived on Saturday, much to my surprise. I'm very glad I ordered all three. The first, an English translation from a German text, had the stitch with a knot around the bundles of threads. I didn't like how it came out. The remaining two German books, both by the same author, used a slightly different version of the stitch. From the pictures (I don't read German!), it looked like a buttonhole stitch was used around the bundles. I tried it. First a buttonhole, then a second wrap, then continue with the four-sided. It worked! The wraps stayed in place!

I got so excited that the stitch was working, I forgot to take pictures. :-(

As I neared the end of the band, I realized I had pulled the wraps a bit too tight. I cheated in making it work, though. I tightly laced both edges of the fabric to the scroll frame until the puckering (caused by pulling the stitch) flattened out.

Wetting the edge of a folded paper towel, I carefully dampened the band (making sure I didn't get water on the variegated silk) from both front and back of the fabric. After it dried, the linen threads had relaxed and given in to their new configuration. The puckering went away.
Despite the frustration in getting this to work, I really like this stitch. After I whittle down my stack of WIPs a bit more, I may have to do more Schwalm work. After all, I just invested in several books on the topic! Maybe I'll do something like this project that uses the peahole stitch as a dividing border.

February recap & March goals

As far as sticking to my goals, it's been a so-so month. Here were my goals for February:

  • Keep blogging! Well, not as much as I'd like, but I managed a couple of posts a week.
  • Start and finish the Jim Wurth ornament that's due out this month. Nope. I started Camelot, but set it aside after a few days in favor of my sampler!
  • Stitch at least through "session 3" on To the Acorn. Session 3 and beyond! I finished all of 1, 2, 3, and 6, and only the cutwork sections of 4 & 5 remained by the end of the month. I've since finished 5!
  • Make progress on several areas in Winds of Color. I made a tiny bit of progress on this, but I didn't post any photos.
  • Finish one small WIP. Ummm ... no.
I really enjoyed making really good progress on one piece this month. Will I regularly start stitching only one at a time from beginning to end? That's unlikely, since I do sometimes go through phases of boredom on any given project. Even this month, I took a break on To the Acorn to start Camelot.

For March, here are my goals:
  • Keep blogging, aiming for 3-4 posts per week.
  • Finish To the Acorn.
  • Finish Camelot.
  • Make good progress on Winds of Color.
  • Stitch on at least one other WIP.
  • Enjoy my first Blogoversary - coming up March 17!
Hope everybody has a good month!