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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Playing with J.L.Walsh Silk Perle

Whenever I travel, I seek out needlework shops (and what stitching addict wouldn't?). In visiting these shops, I keep an eye out for new (to me) threads. I'll buy some in colors I like so I can play with them and use them (eventually) in some future project.

A few skeins of J.L.Walsh Silk Perle made their way into my stash in a similar fashion. According to a previous blog post, my MIL picked them up from Beehive NeedleArts in Pittsburgh last fall.

Recently, a couple of these skeins were added to my pile of threads for Potpourri. These two colors seem to work with my palette.

During the class, I started stitching with this thread as it came off the skein, but it was a bit too thick for diagonal satin stitches. I quickly decided that I needed to play with it a bit more before using it too much.

Let's take a closer look.

Looking at the thread up close, it's a bit different than the typical perle thread. As it comes off the skein, it's a tiny bit thinner than a perle 5 weight. It also has a much looser twist, as a close-up picture shows.

Unlike typical silk or cotton perle threads, this is easily divisible in half, and each of those halves is made up of four strands the size of floss. (For lack of a better name, I'm using the term "full bundle" when referring to the thread as it comes off the skein, and "half bundle" for the thread when it's divided into two.)

Here's a look at each of these divisions side by side. I chose to run the smallest division (the floss strand size) over a damp sponge to straighten it before stitching. Without this step, it still has the waviness shown in the half-bundle.

Once it's straightened, this single strand is almost indistinguishable from cotton floss, except, of course, for silk's fantastic sheen. Here is one strand from the bundle of silk perle (top) alongside one strand of DMC cotton floss (bottom).

I did find that the color was not consistent throughout the thread. This cannot be seen easily with the full bundle, but once the thread is divided in half or more, it becomes more evident. I would expect this variation in depth of color to be even more obvious with darker colors, but it can be seen even in my pale lavender. The arrow in this photo shows one of lighter spots, but there are others in this photo, too.

I found that the slight variations of color actually add a bit of texture and interest to the thread. Again, this might be more objectionable with a darker thread, but I like it for this color, at least.

So what does it look like when it's stitched?

When stitching with the full (i.e. as it comes off the skein) or half bundles, I found I needed to keep adding twist to the thread to keep the bundle together. This is especially true of the half-bundle. Without consciously adding a twist to this thread, it just looks like poorly laid thread.
  • The full bundle covers very well on 18ct mono canvas for horizontal or vertical stitches, but is a bit too thick for diagonal stitches. 
  • Half of this bundle is perfect for diagonal stitches, but it too skimpy for vertical or horizontal stitches. 
  • By stripping the thread down to its individual strands, straightening them, and recombining to use four together in the needle, you'll get really nice coverage for any stitch direction, especially when carefully laying each stitch.
I notice that the thread doesn't look as dark once it has been divided. That's likely due to the variations in the color distribution.

The short story:
  • Regardless of whether you decide to use the thread as it comes off the skein, or divide it in half, or strip it down to its component strands, you'll get great sheen from this thread. 
  • You do need to keep an eye on the twist when stitching with the full bundle or half bundle. If you don't keep a fairly tight overtwist on the thread, it does start to get a rougher texture. But then again, that may be what you want!
  • I can't find the full color palette online, but this site shows several of the 118 colors. 
  • This thread is really nice if you want matching colors in various sizes of thread, since you can use it all three ways, though the full bundle does seem slightly darker.
 I hope this helps somebody stitching with J.L.Walsh Silk Perle. Does anybody have any other tips for using this thread?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Potpourri class with Margaret Bendig

I've been absent from blogging in recent days, but I have been stitching! One of the pieces I've been working on is Margaret Bendig's Potpourri on Canvas (which I'll just shorten to Potpourri in future writing).

Yes, the class was last week. Two great days with a delightful teacher. We somehow talked our way through 46 different block patterns with recommendations of threads for each, yet still had time to stitch. Along the way, Margaret taught us the basics of a variation of Chottie's plaid, convinced me that several backstitches over 1 thread really would hold a thread tail, and provided several patterns that will make great backgrounds for future projects.

Here's the beginning of my piece. You can see the start of the plaid, along with hints of several other boxes.

There were about 14 students in the class, and I snapped pictures of several pieces, all in different color schemes. With the stitchers' permission, here they are.

We had so much fun with Margaret that we're already talking about bringing her back for another class, even though we'll have cross-country airfares. I highly recommend her as a teacher - and her designs are gorgeous!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How many more stitches can I get out of this thread?

Don't you just hate when you're stitching away, nearing the end of a section/color/band/etc., and you notice that the thread left in your needle is growing short way too fast? Then you end up with something like this:

That thread couldn't stretch far enough to make three more lousy smyrna crosses. Bummer.

Another short length of thread later and the prework is done on Potpourri, in plenty of time for my class with Margaret Bendig next week.
The more I stitched, the more I liked my choice of outside border.

Now I'll put this aside until the class starts!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Border decisions

The prework for my Margaret Bendig class, Potpourri on Canvas, involves stitching the borders that divide the canvas into 46 blocks and the first row of the outer border.

I previously mentioned that I had picked up Caron's Impressions in Flame (#045) for the dividing borders. This color name is a bit misleading, because the thread ranges from a dark grape to deep mauve to an orange-red. Regardless of the name, it really works well with my chosen palette.

Knowing that a large portion of my threads are in the purple range, I thought that a dark lavender would work well for the outer smyrna cross border. To make the smyrnas have some dimension, I wanted to use a round thread as opposed to several strands of floss.

Well, I tried it, with DMC pearl cotton #8 in 3041. That's the darkest lavender easily accessible to me in this size. Unfortunately, it just got washed out. It wasn't dark enough!

In an attempt to save the idea of a purple border, I decided to try stitching the smyrnas in two colors, with the pearl cotton on bottom and a darker purple metallic on top. I even tried two different metallics as options. Nothing worked. It just looked awkward with the metallic on top of the pearl cotton. What do you think?
I went back to the stash, but didn't find anything that worked. Darn. I needed to go shopping. (Don't you feel sorry for me?) I ended up buying four different colors in pearl 8, all of which worked with my colors. Only one of these was dark enough for the border, but any might be usable for the inner blocks.

So what did I choose? A dark burgundy, DMC 902. You might agree that it's a much better choice.
I should be done with all of the borders very soon. Stay tuned for the completion of the prework!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stash diving to match my color palette

In my last post (way too long ago!), I showed my color palette for an upcoming Margaret Bendig class.

With my Antelope Canyon pictures in mind, my first task was to find an overdyed thread for the dividing bands between the many blocks in the project. In Margaret's original, she used three strands of a floss-weight thread. I decided to take the easy (lazy?) way out, and instead looked for a heavier-weight thread. With a larger thread, I could use just one strand, and wouldn't have to lay miles of long-arm cross. In this search, I felt a bit like Goldilocks:

With my border color in hand, I checked out available canvas colors. While there isn't much bare canvas in the project, some does peek through in areas, so I wanted a canvas color that would go with my palette. A floss toss (with only my border color) led me to buy a very large square of lavender canvas.

At this point, I hadn't found any other threads. Once home, I headed for my stash. I discovered that I have a LOT of lavender threads, but had a few in other colors. Here's what I came up with:
Perhaps it's not the best practice to go about making major color decisions like border and canvas colors (and actually starting to stitch with them!) before finding the rest of your threads. Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I like to think that doing things like this will help challenge my color and design sense. Time will tell if some of this has been a colossal mistake, but it will be a fun mistake!

As you can see, I'd already started the borders when the picture above was taken, but I'll save the pictures of border progress for another post!