Archive for the books Category

Exquisite Silk Embroidery

Posted in books, Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2017 by suetortoise

While I was at Sewing For Pleasure, I spotted some copies of this book on a bookstall and had a quick browse. But by the time I went back to the stall to buy a copy, they had all been sold. Eventually I tracked down a copy on Book Depository.

Chinese Embroidery: An Illustrated Stitch Guide is by Shao Xiaocheng and published by Better Life Press (ISBN 978-1-60220-015-9). It’s a good-sized hardback with over 160 pages and colour illustrations on virtually every page. I certainly don’t regret buying it. I have found it useful, interesting and inspiring, but I do have some serious reservations about recommending it. So this will be a mixed review.

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Things happening, slowly.

Posted in Australia, books, Embroidery, everyday life, out and about with tags , , , on September 5, 2016 by suetortoise

curfew open

Well the last few weeks have been busy. I’ve held off from updating the blog, hoping that I could tell you that my sister and I have finally sold my parents’ house. (It’s been on the market for a year now.) We have accepted an offer and we’ve spent hours form-filling and answering questions and so forth. However, we’ve not yet exchanged contracts with couple who want to buy it. It is almost certainly a done deal, but until the papers are signed, I don’t like to tempt fate and say it’s sold.

I am just hoping the contract is ready for signing before I go off to Australia – and it’s not very long now! The flight tickets arrived yesterday. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with KRin and Megan at Hopetoun Tea Rooms in Melbourne on the morning of the 21st. I’m sure we’ll find a lot to talk about. They are going to introduce me to a needlework shop called L’uccello, too. I should be just-about over the jet lag by then.

The next day, Kevon and I are off to Hobart for a week. One of the people we’ll be meeting there is his elderly cousin, and my friend, Diana. Kevon suggested that I could embroider something based on the poem “Curfew must not ring tonight” by Rosa Hartwick Thorpe as a gift for Diana. I didn’t know the poem and wasn’t sure what I could do with it, but a little searching on the web found it. Even better, Abe Books lead me to a bookseller with a copy of a tiny book containing just the one poem and illustrations. The book dates from about 1890. The cover is a little time-worn, so I made an embroidered jacket for it.

curfew and hand

The book is only 12cm high. I’ve stitched Bessie, the heroine of the verse, climbing up into the belfry to stop the curfew bell from ringing. The drawing is loosely based on one of the sepia illustrations in the book, and is stitched in stranded cotton on white Egyptian-cotton sheeting. Most of the stitching is irregular stem stitch and straight stitches. I was pretty-much making it up as I went along, working over an ink drawing. After I’d finished the stitching, I backed the piece with pelmet Vilene and a second layer of sheeting, to make a sturdy cover. Not my usual style of work, but an interesting challenge. I hope that Diana will be pleased.

curfew close-up

I was also hoping I’d have the Hardanger bookmark finished to show you – I’ve done all the stitching, there’s just the hemming to do. Mitred corners are things I never feel confident about doing, so I need to be cool and calm and have plenty of time available when I start that stage. Right now I am anything but calm and trying to do fifteen things at once, so the hem-laying must wait.

This will be the last blog post before my holiday. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Hardanger embroidery – back to the fjords (via Sydney)

Posted in books, Embroidery, hardanger, Needlework, whitework with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2016 by suetortoise

I’ve been waiting eagerly for Yvette Stanton’s new book Early Style Hardanger since I first read about it as a work in progress, on her blog, White Threads. It sounded right up my street: firmly focused on the traditional Norwegian whitework technique rather than any modern interpretations.
I’m delighted to say that the book lives up to my expectations. It’s a substantial paperback: neat layout, enticing photographs, clear typography, copious step-by-step diagrams and charts. If I had to sum up the contents in one word, it would be ‘thorough’ – it’s one of the most in-depth single-subject embroidery books that I have seen.

Early Style Hardanger cover

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Experiments inspired by (yet another) old book

Posted in books, Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2015 by suetortoise

Firstly, a big hello to some new readers, who have found Tortoise Loft thanks to the amazing Mary Corbet of Needle’N’Thread blog. You are very welcome. Please feel free to join in the comments.

Blue openwork chart

The Internet Archive has been busy putting illustrations from its collection of books onto Flickr, where the picture quality often better than on the book version on its own site. (This is great news if you’ve been straining your eyes trying to resolve unclear illustrations – although the original print quality is often poor, so there’s always a limit to what can be seen.) That was how I came across a book called Broderies des paysannes de Smolensk from 1913, showing some interesting counted cutwork done in several colours rather than just white. Here’s a link to the Flickr pages, and to the book on Internet Archive.

A quick aside: in case you haven’t already noticed, the British Library has recently started doing the same thing – another little goldmine of book illustrations, diagrams, decorative initials, chapter headings and printers flourishes on Flickr. Some of the initials and chapter headings in particular seem to be just crying out to be rendered in embroidery…

At the top of the page is a chart I made based on this illustration from Broideries des paysannes… I have played with the colours as I wanted them to suit some light blue fabric.

Anyway, show me a counted-thread technique which I haven’t met before and I’m just dying to figure out how to do it, and eager to have a go for myself. Which is what is going on in this picture.

Smolensk square in progress

I’m getting the hang of it, I think. From what I can make out of the French text, the original embroideries were worked in linen thread on homespun linen, both home-dyed. I’ve made things a bit difficult for myself by using silk thread on linen. It would be easier to work with something a bit less slippery, but I do love silk. This is 32-count evenweave fabric. (The illustrations show fabric that is not evenweave, and I do think these old geometrical designs look more interesting with a bit of distortion.) This square is an experiment, a chance to find my own way of working and learn how to plan the routes for the stitching: quite a lot of zig-zagging around is required.  I’m not claiming to be doing the technique the ‘right’ way – I just tried things until I got an effect that seemed close to the original. It’s not quick. I’ll be very glad when the brown section is finished, I seem to have been stitching with brown for years!

Another aside: you can also see my personal solution for managing spools of silk. One spool, one little grip-top bag (these bags came from a craft shop). The spools can’t rub on each other in their storage box or in my workbag, won’t roll off the table and don’t usually need to come out of the bags while I’m working – unless I lose the end of the thread. I’ve been cursing silk a lot less since I began using these little bags.

I’ll let you see a picture of the final result when I have completed the square. (Reading this back, I suspect that a certain friend of mine will try to turn that last remark into a mathematical joke. Please ignore him, as usual.)

Woven Diamond Stitch

Posted in books, Embroidery, Stitches with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2015 by suetortoise

Woven Diamond Stitch Border

Here’s another one of those interesting interlaced stitches from this book on the Internet Archive, Mordvalaisten Pukuja kuoseja, a book of old Mordvin costumes, embroidery patterns and stitches. This one is very similar to the Woven Circle Stitch from my first post about the book. It’s worked in much the same way, but the 8 points are spaced in a diamond shape. (I don’t know what the proper name for the stitch is, so I’ve called it Woven Diamond Stitch – does anyone know the proper name?) Continue reading

Woven Circles and a Fascinating Book

Posted in books, Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , , , , , on June 6, 2015 by suetortoise

woven circle stitch bookmark

If you read the comments under my previous post, you’ll see that Elizabeth gave us a link to a selection of patterns from an 1899 book about traditional Mordvin costumes, concentrating on the embroidery designs. (These are Eastern European costumes. I knew nothing about the Mordvin peoples before I saw this book, so I can do no better than point you at the Wikipedia entry for Mordvins.)

The whole book is on the Internet Archive, Mordvalaisten Pukuja kuoseja, and it’s fascinating. It has many, many pages full of embroidery designs, carefully charted on graph paper, and drawings of the embroidery in use on costume. A wonderful resource. The text is in Finnish and German, but the main part of the book is the plates.

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A Meridian, Giant Swans and Someone Else’s Dragon

Posted in books, Embroidery, everyday life, out and about, science fiction, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2014 by suetortoise

Tanya's Dragon - started

So was Loncon 3 a good World Science Fiction Convention? Did Kevon and I have a good time? Was the art show a success for me?

Loncon 3 was a lot to take in, a bit too much at times, but overall we enjoyed it. The convention was huge, full of people and with a massive programme of events. We could only get to a small fraction of the things on offer. Some interesting discussion panels, a very good talk by Lord Rees the Astronomer Royal, among other talks. Kevon and I took part in an academic experiment on our initial reactions to real and constructed  languages – which languages sound friendly, aggressive, etc. Fascinating food for thought.

Kevon and I went off to Greenwich early on the Saturday morning, and ate breakfast sitting in the sunshine by the Cutty Sark, before walking past the National Maritime Museum and through Greenwich Park to the Observatory. (Kevon was most put out that the Greenwich Meridian was not at exactly zero according to the GPS on his mobile phone.) This pleasant outing was the only bit of sightseeing we had time for in London, as we didn’t want to miss too much of the convention.

The art show was huge, with artist talks, tours and demonstrations and well-attended workshops as well as the display of artwork. This made the show a lively, friendly place, and we art exhibitors were encouraged to be there at lunchtimes , so people could chat to us. (It also gave us a chance to chat to each other. I met some old friends and made some new ones there.) Plenty of buyers, too. I took nineteen pieces and came home with only four, so I’ve no complaints.

The Excel Centre staff were friendly, the loos were clean and there was plenty of space to sit and talk and numerous food places, serving affordable meals. And we got plenty of exercise walking from the hotel at one end to the convention area at the other – it’s a massive place! On the downside, Kev had an upset stomach the first night and I started a heavy cold on the Sunday evening.  (Then Kevon started it a few days later. It got a large number of convention attendees.) So we didn’t feel like  doing as much as we might otherwise have done.

I was very good, and didn’t spend too much money, despite the tempting bookstalls and dealers selling everything from flying drones and animated Tribbles to T-shirts, pearls and pyrogravure. On the Thursday evening, I’d gone to an entertaining talk on medieval spinning and weaving by Katrin Kania of Pallia and A Stitch in Time blog and later I bought a couple of metres of linen band from her stall. Trust me to go to a huge SF con and come back with no books, but with yet more embroidery material!

I bought a book on Thursday last week. A very new book. Children’s author and Shrewsbury resident Pauline Fisk produced her My Tonight From Shrewsbury blog in 2012 – a year in the life of the town from January to the end of December – people, places, events, history, little known facts and hidden corners.  I’ve mentioned it before. It’s an excellent piece of journalism. The heart of the blog has now been condensed down to a book: Behind Closed Doors in an English County Town. On Thursday I went to the launch party at the new museum. It’s a good book, and I think it will do very well as there’s plenty to appeal to locals in it as well as plenty to interest visitors to the town.

For the launch, Pauline made a big cake and iced it with a picture of Shrewsbury as it is shown on a Tudor map: complete with the castle, old streets, walls, fortified bridges, houses and churches  – and the swans on the Severn larger than most of the buildings. The light was poor, so I couldn’t get a very good photo, but here it is:

Pauline Fisk's Book Launch Masterpiece

The multi-talented and amazing Tanya Bentham of Opus Anglicanum blog, is doing a ‘stitchalong’ project on the blog as an introduction to medieval laid-work embroidery. The first design is a little dragon, based one from a 12th-century church pillar. I’ve wanted to have a go at this type of work for some time, but I’m allergic to wool and this is a technique that won’t work properly with threads without a bit of spring in them. After considerable experiment, mine is being worked in acrylic yarn on linen rather than hand dyed crewel on wool. (I’ll talk about where the yarn I am using came from next time I write on this project.) If you want to join in, Tanya’s instructions start with the materials list here, and she also has kits for the project for sale on her Folksy site.

After working with fine threads on a small scale for so long, my first reaction is how surprisingly fast this piece is growing. Just a few stitching sessions, and I am over half-way through the first stage. I’ve never taken part in a ‘stitchalong’ before, so it’s all new to me. The entire project is for a small bag with a silk lining, but I will probably only do this one dragon.

One other piece of good news to end with: I had a hospital appointment yesterday, for them to see how my bladder is doing, after the removal of a small malignant growth earlier this summer. And the camera showed that all is well in there. That was a great relief. I will get another check-up in six months, but it looks like they’ve not left anything behind and no sign of anything new. Thanks for a job well done, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.