Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the Middle of Madness

Oh yes, I'm in the middle of madness.

Stitching Towers is in an uproar. For the first time in my life I am assessing crafting materials and throwing them out. Yes, you heard that right throwing them out. I confess I have never in my life before thrown away a crafting material. I have squirrelled it away, because it could come in handy.

It has taken me the whole of this year to sort my way through each room of our house, assessing and throwing possessions as I go. (Mainly to the charity shops though!)

Until finally I've got here. The hardest room for me to face. And yet, ultimately the most important, to me anyway.

My aim is to turn this craft room back into an embroidery studio. I've put myself through an assessment of what I want to achieve, art and embroidery wise in the next 10 years, and what I want to spend my time doing. And when I looked around me, namely, at how I had my room arranged, what I had given up space to, and what my room was focused on, this had nothing to do with what my stated aims were for the next 10 years. So I've decided to change that.

But I can't go on storing the amount of un-used stuff that I have been doing. It's grating on my nerves, and crowding in too much into the workable surfaces of the room. So I'm having a grand old clear out. I'm being ruthless. Which is hard.

How am I achieving my downsizing?
i. I'm giving up felting, I'm just keeping a small amount of some neutral wools and the silk tops.
ii. I'm giving up paper crafting. I'm keeping some general tools, one A4 box of cardstock, and my mount cutters, the rest I'm giving away.
iii I'm giving up knitting and crocheting. Really I never learned. I just bought some stuff!
iv. I'm breaking into my categories of books on my shelves and assessing how good they are. Are they worth their place. Does another book say it better?
v. I'm getting rid of fabric that I'll never use like Aida, and shiny, slippy dressmaking fabrics that have been mistake buys that I've not liked to admit to.

I'm only doing so much each day. When I find myself wavering, and start putting things back I stop and leave. When I come back the next day I keep remembering my aims. So far, so good. Yup, to a certain extent this room will still look cluttered. It's a workroom, not a showroom. I don't do frilly, or pretty, I've tried in the past, and failed. I like neutral, and clean.

I really wish I had the ability to hide this stuff away in a giant cupboard. But then I'd probably not tackle it until the cupboard doors wouldn't close!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Lost Stitchy Bug

Well it's fair to say I've well and truly lost my stitchy bug of late. To be truthful not just of late, but for the whole of this Summer and beyond. The Stitching Tower is full of tumbleweed and dust, while projects have the general air of abandonment. One day I put my needle down, with plans and inclinations to pick it back up the next, and I just didn't.

While I haven't quite reached this elegant level of decay yet, give it a few years, and I won't be far off. In fact if I could have the beauty of this vaulted ceiling and these high windows, I might be tempted to leave it for a while. Sadly all the years of neglect in the world won't give me this. Merely a thicker layer of dust, and a silverfish infestation. Not too good for linen ground, and crewel threads. Ah well.

Instead, our glorious autumnal weather has drawn me back. It's the colours in the leaves, as they fade and fall, that reminds me of the richness of the shades in Appletons Crewel Wools. They perfectly capture the colours of this season so well.

This is a picture of Whitwell Wood, (taken a few years ago now, but I'm sure the trees still demonstrate the same colours, this afternoon, even if the configuration of branches are by now a little different.)

and this is my shade card for Appletons. (Which comes in Tapestry weight, rather than Crewel, but still does the job admirably when it comes to showing the softness of the colours.)

There's something about the texture of working in wool too, that screams out for Autumn, as you're running it through your fingertips. It's something comforting. Something that almost promises to be warm. This is something beguiling, that says it's ok to stroke me, touch me, run your fingers along me. You're not going to harm me, or snag me, or dull my sheen. This is a rare, rare thing in embroidery. Normally when working with silk, it's a look, but touch as little as possible. Pull the ground, as tight as a drum, and keep your hands off the ground (fabric). Keep your scissors off the ground. Don't smudge the design applied on the ground. JUST KEEP OFF THE GROUND!!! And once the silk or mercerised cotton goes on, then we apply the same principles. Keep off the stitching, don't touch it again, once it's applied. But now Wool, wool is different. Wool turns the rules on their heads, breaks them, and forgives us.

Wool might bring my stitchy bug back.

Friday, October 23, 2015

So I discovered how to make collages...

as the title suggest, I decided it was time (well overdue) that I learnt how to make collages. And like anything new, I might have gone a little overboard!

Oh and I made a new little start. Meet McPheters House, a little Debbie Patrick design.

It's a very small design, from the leaflet Collectible Houses I, and it's about 58 stitches wide by 83 stitches wide, which isn't going to be very big at all on 40 count linen. I'm stitching 1 strand of DMC over 2 threads, and I've started playing with adding some counted thread stitches into the detailing here. On the door I've added Rhodes stitches in Pipers floss silk. On the outer porch I've added smaller Rhodes stitches in DMC, and in the 1st floor tower window I've added a teeny tiny eyelet. I'll add more Rhodes under the main bay window, that I've yet to add in.

I'm not too sure about the window back stitching. The inner seems too dark, and the outer seems too light. From a distance the dark lining works far better. I'm tempted to use my Pearsalls extremely thin gossamer black on both the inner and outer window lines and see how this works. I'll put the rest of the design in, and see where this goes.

I finished Crystal Roses earlier on a couple of weeks ago, and spent last week pfaffing about without stitching anything. I just couldn't seem to make a decision on starting anything. I have several new little starts that I could choose, and each of them seem to be about the same priority in my mind, with neither of them winning out over the other.

I've recently fallen in love with some Hardanger designs, so I've decided I'll try something new. I mean, what's not to love about cutting holes in your stitching?! I did my research, and decided that the best Hardanger manuals in the world for a beginner were written by Janice Love, her Hardanger Basics and Beyond, and Fundamentals Made Fancy. Absolutely wonderful how to books, with super how to by number, each needle movement numbered and illustrated, amazing. But were they to be found in print? in this country? No, of course not. They were on Amazon marketplace for £35 and £65 respectively. Hmm. A bit of an expensive investment. Instead I've imported them from Nordic Needle in the US, where even with the $22.95 postage I got them both for £38. So these are my Christmas present from Jancsi. They arrived this afternoon, and I'm in love! Luckily Jancsi isn't going to make me wait until Christmas to use them! So there might be a Hardanger start in my future. And I'm going to try very hard to start on a beginners piece, and not some advanced endeavour.

Or there could be another Debbie Patrick Design in my future. I used October's stitching budget to buy some new Window detail charts, along with a Christmas house, Ferris Mansion, Debbie's 2006 design that I don't have. They should be arriving hopefully in the next few weeks. I'm so excited about them. In the meantime I did a collage of Bectel, who's sitting pretty on the bookcase, watching me stitch now.

Or there could be a Brooke's Books start. On Sunday we are heading over to a Doll house Miniatures Fair in Newark Showground, to look for miniature rolling pins and wooden spoons to fit inside the apron pocket of Brooke's Spirit Angel of Holiday Baking, who I'm going to stitch on fabric, rather than perforated paper. So I might be well motivated to start this!

There are so many possibilities. I even found myself suggesting to Jancsi in a fit of madness that I could start them all. Eeeek. That would be way too many wips.

Enjoy your stitching weekend! In between sorting out my under the stairs cupboard, and miniatures fairs I'm hoping for some stitching too!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Studio Shot Tuesday, A New Start, and Mark 2 of my "Height Stabilisation and Movement Adjustment Device"

So as the title of this post would suggest, I'm probably trying to cram far too many subjects in together at once. But I'm running up against a time barrier. Tomorrow is E for Extraction day. In that the wisdom tooth is coming out, and I don't know how many studio days I'm going to lose in the recovery process! So here goes,

First of all, some pretty updates:

This is Crystal Roses, my weekend new start. It's a lovely design by Just Nan, that I picked out a piece of raw linen for.

The chart calls for AVAS silks, and there is a conversion to DMC, but there are only 3 pinks, a green, a blending filament, and white used in the design, so I've converted the colours to my Madeira Pure Silk threads. I'm mainly working in one strand, except the backstitch/foursided multi roses that you see bumping up in the detail shot. There I've gone for 2 threads. 1 strand just looked like weak backstitching.

I tried out some variation beading here for the centre, because I'm making my piece into a drawstring bag, so I'll stitch the centre motif twice. Once, with the whole design (what you see here) and once on it's own, or just with a smattering of other flowers for the back of the bag. The white little crosses are a partial Smyrna stitch. A whole Smyrna is just too much stitching for the 32 count canvas to fit in.

(Ok, so my studio shot is actually my new start, so I don't have as many topics as the title might suggest!)

Now, for my "Height Stabilisation and Movement Adjustment Device" as I'm grandly calling.

Or the more down to earth version, my shelf on wheels. I like my name better!

Over the weekend we modded my 36 inch Elbessee floor stand to take my 24 inch Elbessee table stand, by cunningly drilling two holes in the uprights, and fitting the bracing bar through them. The top fixings on both frames are identical, so no adjustments were required. This worked great.

Apart from the stand isn't really very ergonomically designed. So I have to lean quite far forward, and really crane my neck. I tried putting a shelf across two hat boxes and putting the stand on that. Ok, the stand was at a better height, but that was quite cumbersome, and it really blocked my thread boxes, and it wasn't in a very useful part of the studio for working at/was very cumbersome and annoying to move. And it still meant I had to crane quite far forward.

So we attached castor wheels with brakes on them to the shelf. And clamped the frame to the shelf. Now the whole thing was much easier to move. Lovely. But the stand was in totally the wrong place for me to sit at, and work at. I had to try to clamp it to the very edge of the shelf, which made it quite unstable. So we added two sticky out struts, that the stand legs can be clamped along. These bring the frame to a much better working position. I've been resting my feet on the shelf, And it's now quite comfortable. Hence there's a good chance that now Evening In The Park might get worked on more often.

Here's where I'm up to so far:

I've just started putting the Queen Stitches in to the flower boxes. The Norwich Squares went in last week or the week before, along with the Eyelets and the little Rhodes stitches.

I've added the backstitching to the centre, so now all that needs adding there is the beads.

It's really catching the light now the bling is starting to come out! Now the frame isn't so awkward for me to handle I'm hoping to get some more put in, in these coming weeks.

Sadly though, it's a sign of things to come. I'm definitely needing more lights on in Stitching Towers now. The light in the evening is fading so fast, and in no time at all, it will be dark while I'm still stitching! I guess this is goodbye to summer!

Friday, September 11, 2015

End of the week round up.

Well I've had a productive week here at Stitching Towers. The main stitching on Angel of Cross Stitch is finished, and here she is! (Getting nicely in the way of one of the stitching tool drawers!)

I've roughly pinned her to some mount card, but I won't fully finish the ornament until a. I can afford some cotton batting, to put underneath her, and b. I've stitched some of her 4 sisters, who are the same height as her, but 10 stitches wider across. Just in case I have to slightly alter the finish size.

We had some little tussels along the way. I lost heart at my wing fill colour choice as I put it in. I realised it was very close to the background material. So we tried all sorts, and of course, came back to my original choice. DMC 842, as used in her hair, and on Brooke's charted embroidery ring. But this always means time spent, and unpicking. That is the cost of the desire to change things!

Making a final bead choice on the wings proved more difficult. I'd initially thought I'd keep the 00149 (white opaque) Mill Hill, as Brooke charted. But with converting this to fabric, and in trying to keep my fabric as close as possible to the fabric I've chosen to the 4 Spirit of Craft Angels, it didn't look quite as nice as it does on the perforated paper design.

And you know the rest, out it came! I tried the 03050 Champagne, which is also used on the other 4 Spirit of Crafting Angel designs, and on Lizzie's belt. But the silver lining lost it's sparkle from further away. The beads needed to be opaque. I tried some lovely antique colours 03005 and 03039 Mill Hills, pinky bronzes. They looked lovely, but clashed badly with the silver bezel tray of her pendant, and the silver tone charms of her chatelaine. So out they came. I remembered on Brooke's website, she had photographed her Angel against a blue background, and it looks lovely. If I hadn't have been trying to keep Lizzie looking like her sisters I'd have stitched her on blue too. (I'd stitch everything on blue if I could!) So I pulled out 00146 pale blue opaque, and they fitted beautifully. They blend in quite nicely, and don't clash with the silver tone garland. (Which is yet to come).

In amongst all these slight changes I gave her violet blue eyes (DMC 340), and pinky lips (DMC 223).

So now all the main stitching is done I have to get out the 48 count silk gauze. And set up a piece of miniature stitching. This Angel of Cross Stitch needs a pendant, that is going to make this garlanded chatelaine look amazing. I've chosen a little Berlin Woolwork design, from a very old Permin leaflet, called Nostalgia.

I haven't found it yet on Antique Pattern Library, so I haven't got a link to send you there. I first had access to this old leaflet in my "youth" when I worked at an embroidery shop, that had originally opened in 1905 by Miss Brailsford and Miss Way, in the market town of Chesterfield, Derbyshire. I loved the old designs we had in the shop, and although I thought they were terribly old fashioned at the time, of course now they are right up my street!

I think the shading on the little design I've chosen is fantastic. I'm torn between 2 of them. One is a red and white christmas rose, which I'll stitch on a background of DMC 842 (the wing fill colour). And the other are two red roses, one of which is the same colour as Lizzie's bonnet ribbons. Both of the bouquets have leaves containing DMC 502, which is what I changed the green in Lizzie's wings to, so she'd subtly match her pendant colours! Now all I have to do is stop waffling and stitch the darn thing. It's been a year since I picked up my miniature stitching.

I think I'll also set myself up with a nice piece of "normal" stitching on 32 count linen, for when my eyes won't stand up to the magnifying light. I've pulled some silk colours out of my Madeira box for a design called Crystal Roses, by Just Nan. I've cut some pieces of raw linen. I'll do the full design on one piece, and then the central design again on another piece of raw. I'm going to make a silk lined drawstring bag out of the two pieces of linen I think. I've got a meter of beautiful dark pink fuchsia silk dupion, that's itching to be used, and a little nick knacks bag can always be used for something!

Oh and this weekend, I  have my large stand to alter some more. I've modded my 36 inch Elbessee floor stand, to take my 24 inch Elbessee table frame. I've clamped the legs of the stand to a long pine shelf, and they are currently standing  wedged on two hat boxes, but I've ordered some castor feet with brakes on from Wilko's to make it more moveable. Pretty, it won't be when I've finished! But it should make Evening in the Park less cumbersome for me to turn over to get at the back. And make the whole frame easier to move about the studio for me. Watch this space, there might be photo's to come!

I'll leave you with this pretty photo of Spirit of Snow Angel and Angel of Cross Stitch keeping a stern eye on all stitchy things in Stitching Towers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Just moo'king abaat

I seem to have spent the last couple of weeks playing around with putting my own alterations onto charts I've been thinking about stitching, and I don't have much to show for it. At least not that I can show in this format out of respect for the copyright of the original chart designers.

But at the weekend the stitching bug got too much for me, and I had to put the designing down, and make a little new start.

Meet Lizzie Bennett, aka Brooke Books Angel of Cross Stitch. She's from a World of Cross Stitch magazine, way back from 2010 and I've made my own adaptations to the chart to allow me to stitch her on fabric. Brooke's Books do sell this design now, and I have seen on the cover advertisement that within the chart pack is a chart designed for fabric.

She is stitching up so fast! This is what I have at the end of yesterday:

I'm fiddling about still with the colour of her eyes and lips. I added a smidge of blending filament in bright blue to her eyes, (top photo) but I've pulled it out (above). It was annoying me for some reason. The lip colour might be changed to a reddy pink too. I'm disliking the vibrant red, as charted in the magazine. I'm thinking pinks in the range of 3726 ish or maybe a ruddy pink like 3722.

 I'm going to stitch her a Berlin Woolwork design of a red and white rose nosegay on 48 count silk gauze, and mount it in a tiny pendant, for her to hold on a garland. I'm also intending to create a "chatelaine" of stitching charms, hanging from her garland. I think they'll look sweet, and fit in with the fabric better than me attempting to stitch the pretty little accessories that she comes with on perforated paper. I'm intrigued by the perforated paper. These designs do make it look good. But I'm concerned that I might not be able to hold it in my left hand and stitch at the same time. It might be too fiddly to grip for me. I don't know whether I could fit it to my stand for my clamp to hold. Maybe between the pages of a small book, or two little blocks. I could experiment I suppose. Watch this space, maybe.

Eventually she'll become a set of Crafting Angels from Brooke's Books, but I'm waiting for my lovely huge pack of charts to arrive from America, before I can delve into them. I ordered a grab bag of sale items from Brooke's Etsy page this summer, and I have 14 of them winging their way to me. That should keep me busy for a while!

That said, I'm thinking I might take a break from the Spirit Angels for my next small project, I'm eyeing up Just Nan's Crystal Roses. Although I'm thinking of doing the chart on 40 count, which will mess up the beads/crystals which come with the chart.

Friday, August 21, 2015

She's finished! Spirit of Snow Angel in all her glory!

Yes she is finished! I can't say finally, because she's only taken 2 weeks! And I've loved every minute of stitching on her. (Although, alas, I've stitched her as a distraction from a major tooth infection, that's still raging for me. I'm off to the dental hospital next week, to look at taking this pesky wisdom tooth out, until then, wish me luck!) But enough about that, and more about her!

I used a small piece of 32ct Murano in Robin Egg blue from Jodyri Designs that I bought earlier in the year. I've found a piece of light grey silk dupion that I'll use to back the flat ornament that she's bound for, and I'll twist a blingy bit of matching cord to go around her too.

I used the chart that came in the chart pack intended for fabric use, rather than the perforated paper option, and instead of using the star that comes with the design I beaded a blingy garland for her with that rather nice Swarovski crystal in the centre. I made a huge boo. I tried to force a bail that was too wide through the hole and broke the top off the crystal. Mr Superglue came to the rescue, so I wire wrapped the swirly bit around it, to hide the glue, and give it a bit more stability. Ah well. Who'd guess unless I blabbed?

And even though her dress is 95% metallic threads she has been an absolute pleasure to stitch. Thank you so much Brook Nolan for designing her. She is marvellous! She has such an engaging face, and I can't wait to stitch more of the ornament Angels in the Brooke's Books range. This is definitely not my last. Although I think I'm sticking to the fabric options, and using charms and beads rather than perforated paper.

To give myself a break with the metallics, I put the first part of my cross (the //// stage in) in a matching shade of DMC, and then the top part (the \\\ for me) in one strand of either Kreinik No 4 braid, or one strand of the DMC Light Effects conversion. I didn't have one of the colours, but I did have a close colour in a Kreinik blending filament, so I did the top part of the cross in two strands of that instead. It worked really well, and it doing it that way didn't make me swear at the metallics. Or swat the whole thing across the room due to the metallic breaking, unwinding mid stitch, or just plain being annoying. You know how it goes with metallics. They look lovely, but underneath you'd never touch them with a barge pole unless you have to.

My next plans are to start (maybe?) the Spirit of Cross Stitch Angel, on fabric, (32ct Platinum Belfast Linen) and I have grand plans to stitch a miniature embroidery on 48ct silk gauze for her, instead of the perforated paper embroidery hoop she's holding. But Evening in the Park is calling out guiltily to me. I am still right at the beginning on this piece. I haven't touched it all summer. It's been too hot to work on a big less wieldly canvas I've claimed. But now, I really do have to think about heading back over to it, and putting a bit more work in (maybe?)

Oh yes,and not forgetting I have to put the final finish to these ornaments that I've been stitching all summer, so they can actually turn into FFO's!