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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Summer Dream progress

I've been on vacation this past week, and I've enjoyed spending a bit more time stitching. I've also been working on stitch study posts, starting to sell off a bit of excess stash on eBay (see the link on the right sidebar), and shopping for nursery furniture and other baby items.

Most of my stitching time has been devoted to Summer Dream, the EGA GCC by Luan Callery. As I mentioned previously, I'm changing some of the colors. The original piece has a pink lily and a pink butterfly and pink stripes on the bee. It's just not working for me. I've decided to change the butterfly to a monarch, since I always enjoy seeing these beauties flitting through my yard. Of course, the butterfly shape traced onto my fabric is not a monarch. I haven't quite figured out if I'm just going to change the colors to the oranges of the monarch, or try to draw a monarch outline over the shape on the fabric.

In the meantime, I've purchased wool for the lily in shades of yellow to orange, and I've stitched the bee with yellow stripes (what a thought!). Here is Mr. Bee. The stripes are cleverly made up of bullion knots, made just a tiny bit longer than the width of the body so they stand up a bit from the fabric. Oh - and his wings will come later! :-)

I've also been working on the larger leaves at the bottom of the piece. Instead of the Paternayan wools called for in the instructions, I'm using the leftover Medici wools from Fantasy Remembered, the companion piece. Medici is bit thinner than the Paternayan, but the colors are a pretty close match. The difference in thickness meant that I needed to do a few more rows of outline stitch to fill in the leaves, but I think it's working out well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

My best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving go to all of you.

DH and I (and Sophie, the greyhound) are going to his parents' house for dinner later this afternoon. Since my pumpkin pie is baked, I'm planning on spending the earlier part of the day enjoying some quiet stitching time and counting my blessings.

May each of you enjoy some quiet time with your needle and thread as well. If you don't have enough to stitch, you can always visit my Thanksgiving post from last year and enjoy some seasonal freebies!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stitch Study 1: Detached Buttonhole

****Warning - picture-heavy post!*****

Welcome to the first official entry in my "Stitch Study" series of posts. As I mentioned in a post last weekend, the first unofficial stitch study was the post on spiral trellis stitch.

This post features basic detached buttonhole stitch. If you're familiar with buttonhole stitch (or to be accurate, closed blanket stitch), it is typically worked through the fabric, as shown here. Detached buttonhole is detached because each stitch is worked through previous stitches, not through the fabric, so the rows of stitches form a layer above the ground fabric.

You can do this stitch on any type of fabric, either countable or non-countable. So you can see the size of my stitches, the examples here are done on 30 ct linen with size 12 pearl cotton. I've used size 12 here because it's small enough for you to see the detail of where the needle is placed. Depending on the desired look, you could use a thicker thread. We'll revisit that thought later.

This stitch is easiest to work if the fabric is held taut in a frame of some kind. If it's worked "in hand", it's a bit too easy to pull too tightly, causing the fabric to buckle. I'm using a scroll frame, but you can use a hoop, q-snaps, or stretcher bars, too. Whatever you like!

Anyway, on to the stitch!

The stitch starts with a foundation row. Here I've used backstitch, worked across the area from right to left. You could use double-running stitch, but I think it helps to have the extra slack provided by backstitch.

After the foundation row is the desired length, come up at the left side, just a bit below the foundation row. Insert the needle under the left-most stitch of the foundation, from top to bottom. The point of the needle must lie on top of the working thread, as shown. This will start the first row of buttonhole stitches.

Pull the needle through, towards yourself. The thread will form a loop. Pull the thread until the loop takes up the space between the foundation row and the place where you started this row. Be careful not to pull the loop too tightly. You'll need to work the next row of stitches into this row. Getting the tension right is one of the trickiest parts to this stitch!

Continue working to the right, inserting the needle under each stitch of the foundation row and over the working thread.

By the time you reach the end of the first row, the number of buttonhole stitches will be the same as the number of backstitches in the foundation. After you take the last stitch into the foundation row, insert the needle into the fabric. This should be the same distance below the foundation row as where you started this first row of buttonhole.

To start the next row, come up again on the left side of the area, again, just a bit below the first row. (Note, here I'm making a plain rectangular patch. We'll talk about filling specific shapes next time!)

Now, you have a choice. You'll be working into the loops between the stitches. My example shows 14 buttonhole stitches on the first row. If I only worked into the loops between the previous stitches, I'd have 13 in the second row, 12 in the next, and so on. How do we fix this? We choose to work either into the leg before the first stitch in the previous row or into the leg after the final stitch in the previous row. As you can see by the picture, I've chosen to work into the first leg. This will offset each stitch in this row to the left of the stitches above.

As you work across this row, insert the needle into the loops between the stitches of the previous row. (My apologies for not catching a picture of that, but see the next picture on the left.) When you reach the end of this row, skip the final leg, as pointed out by the arrow in the picture at right.

Come up again on the left side of the patch, and this time, skip the first leg (see the arrow at left), and immediately start working into the loops between the stitches. This will stagger all the stitches of this row back to the right. What would happen if you didn't do this? You 'd end up with too many or too few stitches on a row, or if you always put a stitch into the first leg and not the last, the patch would be really crowded on the left and sparse on the right.

Of course, when you reach the end of this row, you do need to put a stitch into the final leg. By this time, you might be running out of thread. Do not try to start and stop a thread in the middle of a row. If you have enough to do another row, keep going. Otherwise, sink your needle to the back, do an L-stitch inside the patch area, and come up a few inches away from the patch. Start the next row with another away knot and L-stitch, and keep stitching.

Continue working like this, staggering the stitches from left to right on alternate rows, until your patch is the desired size. You might find that your stitching was not always even and you have a few bumps and dips along your bottom row. DO NOT PANIC! This is OK, and it should smooth out when you finish off the patch. To do this, you'll place little tacking stitches across the bottom of the patch, catching the loops of the last row of buttonhole stitches. In my example, I spaced the tacking stitches two threads apart, which was the same spacing as the backstitches in my foundation row. I decided to make each tacking stitch come up and down in the same hole of the fabric, but they could be over a fabric thread or two (or more), depending on the look you want.

When you finish the tacking, all that's left to do is to tie off the threads on the back. This is somewhat difficult, because you really don't have much to work with. I generally use the backs of the foundation row and tacking row. If you started and ended with L-stitches, you really don't need to tie off into many stitches.

On the left is my finished patch using the size 12 pearl cotton. Notice that there are gaps where the fabric shows through? Often you don't want those gaps. I could have eliminated this problem by making my foundation stitches smaller and spacing between rows smaller, or I can just use a thicker thread. The lighter pink patch uses the same spacing, but size 8 pearl cotton. See how it fills the space?

Congratulations! You've learned the basics of detached buttonhole! For the next stitch study, you'll learn how to fill a shaped area, such as a flower petal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Dance: Fabulous Finale

This post not only celebrates the completion of Jim Wurth's Fabulous Finale ornament, but the completion of all 12 ornaments in the dodecagon series!This ornament was a lot of fun to stitch, and it was my first opportunity to stitch with the Finca cotton floss and pearl cottons from the Spanish company Presencia. I did find that the pearl cottons had a few slubs, which were far enough apart that a stitcher could just use the length of thread between the slubs without a problem. The floss was just a tiny bit fuzzier than the DMC I often use. A color card for these threads might be useful, for when I'm trying to find colors that just don't come in Anchor or DMC (like the turquoise family I'm using in My Way).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Dance: Peace Tree

So much for switching to Summer Dream. On Wednesday, I received the kit for the last ornament in Jim Wurth's dodecagon series. I was reminded that I had not finished the previous ornament, Peace Tree, though I did work on it a bit a few weeks ago.

Because I'm switching some of the colors on Summer Dream, I decided it required too much thinking for the Thursday evening stitch night at the LNS. Instead, I brought Peace Tree, and finished the remaining beading.

I had hoped that this ornament would grow on me as I stitched it, but that really didn't happen. It's probably enough to say that it's my least favorite of the series, despite the beautiful, challenging crescent stitches done in Flair.

After I finished Peace Tree, I took it off the stretcher bars and reused them for Jim's Fabulous Finale. This ornament is not in my usual colors, but I'm really enjoying it. The proof is in the amazing amount I've stitched since Thursday evening, when I only had part of the border done.

The highlights of this piece are the five large flower-like motifs stitched in the Chilly Hollow stitch. This stitch was invented by the one-and-only Jean Hilton and named by fellow blogger Jane from Chilly Hollow.

A new series of posts: Stitch Studies

Based on my blog statistics, the most popular post I've ever written is my tutorial on spiral trellis stitch. Recently, Megan of Elmsley Rose asked me to do a similar tutorial on the partially-attached detached buttonhole stitch (anybody have a better name for this?) that I used for the top layer of the peapods on my Tudor Style Purse. I've decided that I really can't jump right in with the partially-attached version of this stitch without at least one on basic detached buttonhole.

This line of thinking has led me to a new line of posts. I was originally thinking about calling it "A Stitch A Week", but I realized that I can't really promise that I'll be able to do one reliably each week, especially after TK makes his (or her) appearance. So, I'm keeping it simple and relatively non-committal by calling them "Stitch Studies".

The first several will be on the variations of detached buttonhole, but I am open to suggestions for follow-on studies. What would you like to see?

Friday, November 21, 2008

More on colors in My Way

I really appreciate the comments from the last post. Getting feedback like that really helps me play out all of the options.

I thought that showing a full picture of My Way might help with my point about color balance. When looking at the entire piece, the details of any one area do not really stand out. (Susan, do you agree?) If anything does look out of place after I get the rest of the blocks partially done, I can always reevaluate.
As for using a yellow/cream in the area under discussion in the last post (the little 1/4 circle in the bottom left), the colors don't really show up well in the pictures. Cyn, the area you pointed out in the Watercolours thread isn't really yellow. It's green. Lime green. I intended to keep this color ONLY in the Watercolours, but to be sure to use it in each square as a bit of a "poison" or "kicker" color.

With the other suggestion of using a lighter burgundy with a bit of shine, well, the only thing that fits that description is the thread used in the center of this same block for the crescent stitches. I don't really want to overwhelm that block with too much of one thread.

I realized that I had never posted the latest progress on block C. Here it is with the center, one side, and one corner done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Color play on My Way

As I mentioned in the last post, I'm now going back to finish at least 1/4 of each block I have started on My Way. In working on Block B, I was very pleased with how most of it came out, but when I reached the little quarter-circle in the corner, I didn't really have a good thread. The directions call for a metallic ribbon in the lightest value in the neutrals family (my blue-grey). Well, I don't have such a thread. I started by trying Petite Frosty Rays by Rainbow Gallery in a very pale gray, but it looked very stark against the rest of the piece. It actually looks a lot better here in the picture, but trust me, when viewing the entire project, it just doesn't work.

This block is in one corner of the project. In the other corner, I have the beginning of Block E, which I featured in my last post. I thought the two roughly circular areas would balance each other out. Well, since block E uses a medium turquoise in its quarter-circle area, I thought that perhaps a medium burgundy would work here in Block B. Right now, all I can say is that the color works better than the light gray. I might have to adjust the beginnings and ends of stitches so it covers the canvas better, or perhaps I'll basketweave the area and do the woven stitch over the top so the canvas "dandruff" isn't so obvious. What do you think?

I'm really enjoying this piece, but unfortunately I need to put it away for a bit. I really would like to turn in the Summer Dream GCC for evaluation, and since it's due in early January, I need to spend some time on it! That's what I'll be working on this evening.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slow progress on My Way

I guess I'm starting to enter another tired period of my pregnancy. That was most of my problem last Sunday when I didn't make it to the last day of the My Way class. Thank you to all of you who expressed your concern.

All I've managed to stitch since then is about a quarter of Block E. I wanted to get the center, one corner, and one side in so I could see all of the colors in before I moved back to do the same on the blocks I've already started.

What made this block take as long as it did was all of the small stitches used in the corner. It doesn't matter how small the area is, if the stitches are small, too, they take longer! I also debated quite a bit about exactly what threads to use.

I hope to actually stitch for a bit tonight, unlike last night when I fell asleep on the couch at 9PM!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Way class: Day 2

The second day of the My Way class continued in the same vein as the first. We worked through color choices of the next two blocks. Luckily, we're in a conference room in the same plaza/mall as the LNS. When a stitcher found she just didn't have a thread that would work in a given place, she could scoot over to the shop to try to find something. Since the LNS owner was in the class with us, she just asked that everyone keep track of what they had pulled from the shop and pay for it later.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my first order of the day was to fix my waffle stitch in Block A. Here's what I came up with, and it works much better.Block B started with a bit of a debate: do I use the burgundy family for the crescents and turquoise behind it, or vice versa? Part of what plays into this decision is the yet-unstitched Bargello that goes in the corners. The Bargello uses the same color family as the background, and since I really don't have a wonderful continuous range of values in the burgundy, I decided to keep the turquoise as the background (not stitched) and the trellis around it.
In Block C, I was finally able to use a bit more of the blue-gray-green border colors (although some of these will go into each of the other squares eventually). I'm very pleased with the one finished leg of the cross.
Unfortunately, I'm staying home from class today since I'm not feeling well. I do plan on continuing to stitch in between naps. I'm going to move on to Block D and E, because I really want a bit of reassurance that this whole thing is going to be balanced before I spend too much time finishing the blocks that I've already started.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Way class: Day 1

OK, so it wasn't a full day. We started My Way last evening with just over 2 hours of class time. So far, I'm really enjoying Carolyn Mitchell's teaching style. She's not really teaching how to do each stitch, but rather helping us all with our color and thread choices, working through one block at a time. It's really amazing to see all of the color palettes everyone's chosen.

Last night we talked through and started stitching "Block A". Here is my My Way before class. The little blocks in the corners of the squares were the latest assigned prework. We were asked to have at least one done in each square.
It turned out that Block A was my least favorite block on the original design, because the color balance didn't seem right with the rest of the piece. Block A is the upper left block in the picture I posted here (though I moved mine to one of the two center blocks). Most of the other blocks used neutrals for the majority of the main cross, but this one was in a much brighter color family. I wanted to change it around so it fit in better with the rest of the design. As a result, I couldn't stick with the formulas in the instructions for "color family A goes here, color family B goes here", and spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was going to do. I am going to work the cross portion in the "neutrals" family (the blue-gray of the border), and I'm going to have the values change from dark to light as I work in towards the center.

Here's the little bit I was able to finish last night. I actually have to take out a bit of the center waffle stitch because the second-to-last color (just inside the burgundy) seems to fall flat. I think I'm going to punch it up with a bit of metallic.
Now, I've got to go. I'd like to fix that waffle stitch before class starts at 9AM!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CyberPointers ANG Chapter

I'm very happy to share the news that ANG has a brand-new online chapter! If you've always wanted to join an ANG chapter but have nothing local, or if you can't make it to meetings, or if (like me) you're looking for additional opportunities to take needlework classes, you may want to join the CyberPointers chapter.

The chapter has its own website: www.cyberpointers.org. The meetings will be conducted via email lists through Yahoo groups. If you sign up in the next day or so, you can participate in the chapter's very first meeting that starts Thursday and runs through the weekend.

A very dedicated team has been working for two hard years to bring this about, getting through many legal and logistical issues. Thank you to that team for your perseverance!

Here are the "Top Ten" reasons to join CyberPointers, as listed by Elizabeth Z, who played a major role in making this happen:

10. A place on the web to meet stitchers and chat about everything needlepoint.
9. Save gas money and help make the world a little greener by joining in meetings right in your own home via computer.
8. Get extra stitching time by not having to drive to a chapter meeting.
7. Fun fundraising projects that include some original designs for the chapter.
6. Join in a group correspondence course and have some friends to stitch with and motivate you to finish.
5. No longer have to be a MAL just because there aren't any chapters near-by.
4. Global community outreach projects that will give you a chance to make the world a better place just by stitching.
3. Access to the Chapter Project Book projects, just like any other chapter.
2. Jim Wurth is teaching the first workshop starting in March.
1. We've all waited 2 long years for this... so let's all show National that we really meant it when we said we wanted a cyber chapter!
Yes, I've joined already. Chapter dues are only $18. If you're not already a member of ANG, you'll have to pay National dues also. With TK (The Kid, remember?) on the way, I figure I'll be missing quite a few local meetings in the next few years, but with the online meetings lasting several days, I'll still be able to participate with CyberPointers.

It's amazing! The chapter just officially opened on November 1st, but already we've got over 175 members! This is obviously meeting a huge demand. Please join us!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Starting Summer Dream

Though I've had the fabric mounted on the frame for over a week, I finally put the first stitches in Luan Callery's Summer Dream on Thursday. Instead of using all of the threads called for in the instructions, I'm trying to use the remainder of some of the colors left over from the companion piece, Fantasy Remembered. It looks like the designer simply converted the same Medici wool colors (now discontinued) to Appleton wools anyway, so why spend the money? I just hope I don't run out of some of the greens!

While I'm still not completely in my comfort zone doing non-counted work, it is getting easier, and I love the fact that there seems to be a lot of progress in a short period of time. As you can see, the stem is done (in packed outline stitch), as well as many of the smaller leaves (in satin stitch and closed fly stitch).Unfortunately, I received an email yesterday with instructions for some additional pre-stitching work for the My Way class, so Summer Dream will need to be set aside for a day or two.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October recap, November goals

Somehow I managed to miss posting a recap and goals for the last few months. Anyway, here's what I accomplished in October:

  • Started and finished Cancer Awareness Heart.
  • Started Carolyn Mitchell's My Way and finished enough for my class next weekend.
  • Continued working on Chris Berry's Tudor Style Purse.
  • Picked up Martha Wilkins after almost a year's hiatus, and finished another band.
  • Took a class with a local teacher for a Bargello needlecase.
  • Started EGA GCC Summer Dream by Luan Callery (pics later today or tomorrow).
  • Purchased some sampler goodness from Gay Ann Rogers.
My WIP pile is growing again...

For November, here are my goals:
  • Blog more (in the spirit of National Blog Posting Month, though I'm not committing to a post every day).
  • Enjoy the My Way class.
  • Finish Jim Wurth's Peace Tree so I'll be ready to start the last ornament when it shows up this month.
  • Continue working on Summer Dream.
  • Finish a few of the smaller WIPs kicking around here!
I can foresee another round of my WIP-loss challenge starting fairly soon!