Archive for the Needlework Category

A Bookmark Evolves

Posted in Darwin, Embroidery, Needlework, shrewsbury, Stitches with tags , , , , , on February 16, 2019 by suetortoise

Another bookmark? Well, you know how I like making bookmarks! There was this little counted-thread pattern that I was playing around with on Monday night. It’s a close relative of some of the other woven stitches I have been playing with over the last few years. I woke up on Tuesday morning, looked at my doodle cloth and thought: what can I do with that stitch? I definitely wanted to play with the variegated colours of Gütermann Sulky Cotton 12 that I have collected over he years. That pattern worked in blocks of four, and these gorgeous colours… There was a strip of 32 count linen on the table and it was my day off…. Continue reading

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The Dragon is Stitched

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 3, 2019 by suetortoise

 

Okay, so I do still take have to it out of the hoop, add my signature (the one you can see is just pasted onto the photo) and get it ready for putting into a mount. But the stitching is done, and I must say I am rather pleased with how it came out. I put the last stitches in on the first of February, so it doesn’t quite count as a January finish, but it’s still the first finished piece of the year. The background fabric looks too blue in this photo. It’s white Egyptian cotton from Empress Millls. The rest of the colours are about right in the photo – perhaps a little dark, but not far off. Continue reading

Eyes On Stalks

Posted in everyday life, Needlework with tags , , on January 22, 2019 by suetortoise

I have a new tool. Shrewsbury has a QVC shop that sells returns and left-overs from a shopping channel. It’s the sort of place which is about 90% tat, but the occasional gem lurks among the polyester clothing and strange household gadgets. Yesterday I acquired a wearable magnifier, which I rather expected to be a waste of money. I have tried-on headbands and spectacle-type magnifiers before, and found them too heavy, too uncomfortable or simply not angled right for embroidery. (I dislike round-the-neck and magnifying lamps because they make me sit too still in order to see the work.) This one was reduced to £4.99, so would probably prove another purchasing mistake….

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December with Dragon, Peacocks and a Catbus

Posted in Christmas, Embroidery, everyday life, Needlework, out and about with tags , , , , on January 1, 2019 by suetortoise

Well, here we are, Happy New Year everyone, and onwards into 2019. Which will probably be just as mixed and tricky and confusing a year as usual, despite our good wishes and good intentions. And we shall cope with it all, as usual. I don’t usually make New Year resolutions, but when I do I like to start them early. So since I finished work for Christmas I have been making sure I do at least a little stitching every day. At least one needle-full every day. And so far so good. How about you?

This piece was started at the beginning of November, but made little progress – it was interrupted by the Christmas card run, and by indifferent health and life in general. But by Christmas Day the end of the slow, slow outlining was in sight (That’s one strand of DeVere Yarns 695 Peat – an extremely dark greenish-brown that I tend to use rather than black for these sort of projects.) I finally got started on the coloured silk shading on the 30th, and the photo above is the state of play at the very end of the year. I am using Chinese silk for this stage.

Progress will slow a little now, with work recommencing – this project needs good light. (I have simpler things on the go, so I shall keep stitching!) Regular readers will remember I worked this same design in 2017, my very first project with the Chinese silk, when I only had limited choice of colour and was learning how to use it as I went along. Now, I can build on that experience, have a much better palette of shades to choose from and hope to do the design full justice. It’s a Victorian printers’ ornament. I’ll show you how I am getting on in my next post.

I haven’t only been stitching. I enjoyed my break, good food, rest, good company. A trip to visit friends in Welshpool last week featured a visit to the National Trust property Powis Castle. We went to see the interior decorated for Christmas, with some magnificent trees and room settings. It looked very festive and very grand. The peacocks were strutting around in the courtyard – here’s one.

I also watched lot of video. I always enjoy The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, and My Neighbour Totoro on Christmas Day – a tradition of quite a few years standing, now. And my favourite character in Totoro is the Catbus. So imagine my delight to get a cuddly, plush Catbus from my friend Sam at work. Catbus now sits on the arm of my sofa. (The picture also shows that I downloaded the Prisma photo-processing phone app on Boxing Day – I shall have fun playing with this and adding effects to phone photos.)

My other ‘not quite a new year resolution’ is to write Tortoise Loft blog posts much more frequently this year than last year. I say this every year, and it usually doesn’t happen. But here’s one, on the very first day of the year. It’s a start.

So what shall we talk about next?

Doodlestitching

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, Stitches with tags , , , , , , , on August 17, 2018 by suetortoise

I do like making bookmarks. They are small enough not to take too long, big enough to be satisfying, and very suitable as carry-around projects.

They are also great for just doodling with stitches. This one is on 14 count Aida fabric in cross stitch and slanting Slav, with a buttonhole stitch edging. I made it up entirely as I went along, starting with the edging, then positioning my main shapes and finally filling in the smaller shapes and the background grid of cross stitches. That’s a very relaxing way to stitch – no pattern to follow, no pressure. Just do it!

This bookmark was worked with two strands of a fine spun-rayon thread, in white, deep pink and a variegated pink/grey. But it could just as easily have used stranded cotton, silk, or anything that would make a plump cross stitch on this fabric.

Aida is a very ugly fabric, so I made sure I didn’t leave any holes completely unstitched, even though there is quite a lot of ground showing between the spaced crosses. That allowed me to take advantage of Aida’s sturdiness and ease of use, while avoiding its harsh, mechanical look. I used cotton thread for the cord that holds the tassel, for strength. The back was not perfectly neat, as I wasn’t planning ahead, so I backed it with some lightweight iron-on interfacing. I stitched it down around the inside of the buttonhole edging so it won’t pull away if the glue loses its grip over time. 

Another good thing about bookmarks is that they only take a little fabric, thread and time. If they go completely wrong you haven’t lost much and you may well have learnt something useful. You can afford to experiment and try out ideas. I wasn’t expecting this one to ‘work’ – but I’m very pleased with it.

So if you want a little challenge, take a strip of fabric, pick a few colours, decide on few stitches and just design as you go. See what happens when you just relax and doodlestitch. (Warning; this can be addictive!)

Needle Threading 101

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework with tags , , , on July 13, 2018 by suetortoise

I once saw a picture that I would love to have used for the start of this post, but I’ve failed to track down a copy. It was a nineteenth century engraving of little girls in infant school, learning to thread needles. It was entitled ‘Needle Drill’. So you will have to imagine the two rows of children in white pinafores and the looks of concentration on their faces.

What struck me about that picture was that the children were obviously being taught to poke the thread (held up in one hand), through the needle’s eye (held up in the other). That’s a very hard way of doing it! Even a stiff thread is difficult to thread into a needle when both are held in the air. Most of our embroidery threads and yarns are flexible, soft, fluffy or flossy, often used in multiple strands. They are very resistant to being poked into needles!

There’s a much, much easier way to do it. It’s quick and it usually goes right first time. It’s almost essential for threading stranded threads or soft yarns easily. It doesn’t require a needle-threader or extra-sharp eyesight. I know the chances are that many of you reading this already know a good method that works well for you: either this one or a very similar method. If you don’t need the how-to pictures, feel free to skip the rest of this article.

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Going for Gold

Posted in Embroidery, museum, Needlework, out and about, Stitches, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2018 by suetortoise

Hanny Newton (standing on left) and about two thirds of our workshop group busy with their stitching.

I have just spent the day at an excellent goldwork workshop, here in Shrewsbury.

Hanny Newton is RSN trained. She produces beautiful work: combining technical excellence with fascinating simple design. Have a look on her website – although photography never does goldwork full justice. She’s a very good tutor: inspiring learning by experiment, rather than pedantic coursework, but able to give lots of tips and pointers.

I have never had a great urge to get into goldwork as such – although it is hard not to be a little tempted after today’s workshop. However, this day was focussed on couching, and knew I did need help with that! I’ve let myself down with bad couching when I have wanted to edge silkwork with metal thread (an effect I really love), so I went hoping for help and tips. I wasn’t disappointed. I have come home with lots of good advice about the thread to use (fine passing) and how to get it to sit neatly in place – and to stay there.

We were in a beautifully light room, in the barrel-vaulted attic of a medieval mansion house, part of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. We were one storey above the Corbett Bed, and I think that some benign influence from that feast of stitching percolated up to inspire us.

It was a relaxed and friendly day, everyone enjoyed it and learnt from it. My humble efforts are hardly worth showing here, but I was there to learn, and I hope that I can practice and do better. You can see rather wobbly lines of couching, some playing about with buttonhole stitch as a couching technique (one of the triangles is detached buttonhole stitch) and an attempt to couch down a big twisted cord, going from very visible stitches to hidden stitches. That one was not much of a success (I was getting tired by then), but all the experimenting was valuable.

Thanks to Hanny for an excellent day’s stitching, and to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery for setting it up for us and providing refreshments. More please!

On Friday I am off to Sewing For Pleasure at the NEC in Birmingham. I will be touring the embroidery supplies stands looking for fine passing thread!