Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh to be by the Ocean, now that Fall is here

I belong to a group called the Tangle, stitchers of all sorts and ages who get together once a month to stitch and also to show off our stitching. We discussed the twelve steps stitchers might use, but we got to the first one, "We admit we have a problem regarding acquisition of stash", and decided there was no problem there, except for the problem of where to store it all.

Anyway, the Tangle met at Ocean City, and oh did we have fun. I finished two projects, the Jane Nicholas piece and also my Arch-Chancellor's Hat piece. Here is the photo of the Jane Nicholas piece. I think it turned out very well indeed.
This is the first piece of stumpwork where I have done the detached petals and leaves, and I really leapt in at the deep end with this one, as I had five flower petals, four dragonfly wings, three raspberries and two leaves to stitch and cut out. Oh, yeah, there was no partridge and no pear tree, but that might make a cute piece to do in stumpwork, along with the other eleven days of christmas.  I was a bit nervous about cutting out the petals and leaves, but I figured I had done the dragonfly wings, so I went ahead and snipped, but I did take them up to the room and did them in total silence. I think it turned out very well indeed. I am thinking of making an etui (that is a little sewing box that has a lid that you remove and the box kind of falls open like a flower) and putting this piece on the lid.

I also put the last ornamentation on the Arch-Chancellor's Hat, and also wrote in and backstitched the quote from Terry Pratchett's book "Sourcery", "When it comes to Glittering Objects, Wizards have all the Taste and Self-Control of a Deranged Magpie". I also did my initials in a signature that I came up with years ago, which I thought was very cool also. I sign a lot of my pieces this way.

So the only thing left is to get it framed and choose just the right place to hang it. I had a lot of fun with this piece, and if anyone finds this and wants to make their own version, just ask in the comment section and I'll give some pointers--although, really, I just cut out a hat shaped piece of red velvet that I had stored all balled up so that it would get lots of wrinkles in, and started adding shiny and sparkly stuff to it. Actually, I am thinking of doing another hat, this time from black velvet, and making it a flapper's cloche or something of the sort. But first, I have a plumeria flower to design and stitch. Although, maybe the plumeria would look nice on a black velvet cloche... hmmm...

Along with stitching at Ocean City, we also did treks to a shop a couple blocks down the boardwalk that is called Salty Yarns, where I got some new fabric for cross stitching, a couple of kits to stitch up, and the turtle bead on the hat, If you look closely at the picture, you may also notice a small shell just under the blue tassel, it is a shell I picked up on the beach and added as a memento of the trip. I got a couple of chances to sit on the beach and watch the waves as well, which is amazingly calming to the nerves.

THE Magpie

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More on the Arch Chancellor's hat

So, I drive two ladies to a bible study at the church we currently attend, and go to the bible study so that they won't feel like I am inconveniencing myself, as neither of them drive, and so I started driving them. This is the church that I was making the altar frontal for, all those flowers. Remember them? Well, the rector asked how they were coming along at the meeting, and I mumbled something non committal which apparently reassured her that they were coming along fine, when what I really should have said, was, "I'm not working on them. I am angry at you, and as a result, any time I work on them my threads knot and break, my imagination goes on vacation, and what started as a joy has become a chore that I avoid, just as I avoid thinking about you. The altar guild should make a set of hangings however they want, waiting on me is silly." It seems that the altar guild has been putting off getting fabric to make a white set of hangings because they didn't know what kind of fabric I would like to sew the flowers onto, as the jacquard that is usually used for hangings and such is very slippery. Anyway, I'll see what happens.

I have reached the point where I can pity her, for her non freedom concerning a lot of things. For me, that is the first step toward being able to feel forgiveness.

On to more cheerful thoughts. The Arch Chancellor's Hat! I have been working on this for a while, and put it aside to give it some thought in the back reaches of the old brain, and then started working on it again. Also got a lot of beads and threads organized, and found (okay, I'll come clean, the reason I was organizing things was because I was looking for them) a quartet of beads that I wanted to put on the hat. They are pressed glass beads, pink, and they are elephants. I have to put them on, as Discworld is a flat planet that rests on the shoulders of four elephants, who are standing on the shell of a giant turtle. Yes, I am going to add a turtle as well. So I was pretty excited about finally finding the elephant beads, I've been looking for them for over a week.
Here is a picture of the hat just before I started adding the elephant beads. I have added two star shaped beads with some purple bugle beads and silver lined gold seed beads trailing off them. I also added some red sequins around the central stones.

THE Magpie

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wizard's Hat embroidery piece

I have been doing some clearing out of the house, which it desperately needs, and unearthed my wizard hat project from my pile of unfinished objects. So here it is, from where I started to where it is now.
 This is a hat shaped piece of velvet I cut out of an old dress that I picked up at a yard sale. I was looking for crushed velvet to do things with, and I love the color red. The floss is actually red also, I blacked it out.
 Here is where I stopped last time I worked on it. I have applied a tassel and a large crystal drop to the tip of the hat, and a large flower crystal surrounded by eight octagonal bermuda blue crystals.
Now I've added some pearl and gold colored braid and also a metallic gold fancy braid to the brim of the hat, and also some fresh water pearls around the octagonal crystals. I still have some way to go before this is as fancy as the hat described in the book, but I am well on my way. The book is Sourcery, by Terry Pratchett, and the hat is described on page 10, if I recall correctly. Readers of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books will understand this next bit best, but gold lace is involved, and ankhstones, which are like rhinestones but a different river. Having been unable to acquire any octarines here, I used octagonal crystals in Bermuda blue in their place. I still need to add sequins, and totally over do the decoration, as the hat is described. Overdoing is necessary, as, "When it comes to glittering objects, wizards have all the taste and self-control of a deranged magpie." Um. Well, now you know where my screen name came from.

Here are the leaves from the Jane Nicholas piece. I decided to do long and short stitch to fill. I have finished filling one of the leaves, and the other is partially filled. Once I finish that, I just have to add the veining, cut them out and apply them.  The masking tape is covering the stems of wire, so that they don't catch on the thread as I stitch, one of the tips that Jane gave us in class.

THE Magpie

Monday, October 11, 2010


I have a daughter in high school. She is bright, loves to learn, is very good at math, reads incessantly, and has the meticulousness that I never had, so she does well in science. She wants to be a veterinarian, with a sideline of exotic pet care. And, she hates to go to school. This is a child who reads everything. Biographies, science texts, every fantasy novel she can lay her hands on. Everything is grist for her brain mill. And I enjoy seeing how it comes back out when she has mulled ideas over in her head.

And she hates to go to school. She hates the incessant homework. The tests. The boredom of it all. This is a child in the accelerated classes, and she is bored.

I have no idea what can be done about that, but I do remember feeling the same way in school. Why isn't learning fun? Why does it always have to be so serious? And why is there such an emphasis on grades, as if they are the reason for the learning? Why can't children learn something just because?

THE Magpie

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Goldwork and Stumpwork, this time with photos!

Of the stumpwork. I have yet to do any goldwork, although I have played with some of the materials. Anyway, the Jane Nicholas piece is still moving forward. I have finished the five petals for the hellebore blossom...
 ...and now I just need to cut them out and apply them. Deep breath here, but I survived cutting out the dragonfly wings, so everything should be fine, so long as I am careful and don't have anyone watching. I finally taught my daughter that the one way to cause hilarious pratfalls or failures to perform as planned was to shout, "Watch this!" as you did some amusing athletic/magic trick. Maybe I should stitch a sixth petal as a spare, in case of cutting errors. Hmmm. That sounds like a good plan, and a way to delay the scissor thing.

Here, I have finished outlining one of the two leaves, and the other is mostly done. After I finish the outlines, I will be filling the interiors of the leaves. There is a very faint oval drawn on the leaf fabric, that will be the final raspberry. I will be doing it with very light red, a peachy pink, and a very pale green floss in french knots, and of course, some beads.

Still waiting on a last email from Benton and Johnson, regarding sequins and spangles. The spangles are probably more authentic, but the sequins are heaps less expensive. So now I just have to find out it the sequins are flat or cupped. If they are flat, I am going that route, at least for now. If I decide in future to do a goldwork/stumpwork/Elizabethan embroidery priest's stole and want to use the spangles I'll definitely rethink the miserly route.

Also, I've been thinking that I have got to try doing a plumeria blossom in stumpwork. I think it would be a show stopper, and the flowers come in such a variety of coloring that it would be fun to embroider as well. And, speaking of plumeria, one of my stubs has developed what I think may be flower buds, about a year before I expected any. Here is a picture of it.

THE Magpie

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On goldwork and stumpwork

Found an awesome information entry in wikipedia regarding goldwork, with definitions and everything, which is good, as I have plans to do a pair of Jane Nicholas tiles from her new book. Well, actually, they are from the Inspirations Magazine out of Australia, issues 66 and 67. Issue 66 has a diamond shaped tile with a tulip, and issue 67 has a name tag with another tulip and knapweed, which looks a lot like thistle. For those interested, the website for Inspirations magazine is http://www.countrybumpkin.com.au/, and these are the two most recent issues. But I still intend to get the book.

Anyway, the goldwork entry address is:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwork_%28embroidery%29
I know that you can't always trust what is in wikipedia, but I cross referenced the information with that from the website for Benton and Johnson, http://www.bentonandjohnson.com/ as I need some materials relating to goldwork to do the two tiles. If you do, or want to try, goldwork, I advise visiting their site, for a fairly comprehensive selection of threads and wires. I don't know about pricing, as I have not really done this sort of thing, but they seemed reasonable to me.

I have no pictures today, as I have to get batteries for my camera--the new one is nice but it _Eats_ batteries. I do have an idea in my head for a box with another stumpwork piece I did mounted on the top. I'll post a picture of the piece pretty soon, as well as the box in progress. I also think I shall go back to the Benton and Johnson website to drool over pretty colored metal thread.

Oh, and a plug for Benton and Johnson. They sell the metal threads by the gram, but when I contacted them to ask for lengths of things, they got back to me the next day, and by the following day I had the information I needed. So kudos to them for their customer service, even for a new and untried customer. Kind of made me eager to toss money at them, if you see what I mean, even if they didn't have totally droolworthy stuff, which they do. Absolutely.

THE Magpie

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Queen of Stumpwork, Jane Nicholas, Thank you for teaching me!

The class with Jane Nicholas was totally awesome. She is very nice and a great teacher. If I get a chance to take another class with her, I will absolutely take the opportunity. And she has a new book out, Stumpwork & Goldwork Embroidery Inspired by Turkish, Syrian & Persian Tiles, and she showed us the actual pieces that were photographed for the book. Yum! They are so, so gorgeous.

So on to the class project. It is a stumpwork piece, with a dragonfly, raspberries, two leaves, a hellebore flower, and some wrapped bead berries with detached-work cups. Here is a picture of three of the petals for the flower. They are done with wire couched around the petal shape, then I did buttonhole over the wire. Next, I did a short row of long and shot buttonhole stitch around the outer half of the flower, slanting down toward the inner point. Then I filled in the petal with long and short stitch, and finally added seed stitch in a dark burgundy to add a bit of color to the flower, I love hellebores, they come in a wild variety of colorways. I liked the photo of this one, partly for the contrast between the petal color and the spots.

Next is where I had gotten to on the background as of Thursday morning. The branch with three twigs is the raspberry branch, and it is formed with wrapped chain stitch in DMC floss. The other branch is plain chain stitch, and forms the ivy. The blue "log" is the body of the dragonfly. It will be getting wings, which is the next picture in the queue. The body is formed of two soft cotton strands, which are couched down and then you do a stem stitch anchored by the couching stitches. It looks very cool. I have also seen this stitch used for twigs on larger pieces.

 Here are the dragonfly wings. They are stitched using a fine gauge wire held down with whipped stitches in light aqua rayon machine embroidery thread. The base fabric is a sandwich of aqua chiffon ribbon, metallic fabric like lame in rainbow iridescence both held together with stitch witchery. After the wire is wrapped, veins are stitched in fly stitch down the center in a metallic cord. 

 This is the fabric I did two of the raspberries on. The circles you see is where I cut them out. They were done with french knots using six strands of floss and one wrap. After the knots were finished, I did a running stitch around them, cut out the circle and pulled the running stitches tight to gather the berry into a ball. This is then stitched to the ground fabric at the ends of the twigs. I haven't yet done the sepals, so on the fabric they look rather lonely.
 This is the cupped berry base, my practice one. It seems pretty easy to do, although also it is very easy to get it wrong. Mostly, I was hoping I was doing the knots in the right holes, but it looks pretty nice, I think. Also, one of the leaves is on here in process. It was very neat, the way she showed us to do them. First, you line the wire up along the central stem and couch it, then you whip it all the way to the tip of the leaf. Next, using the same piece of wire, you bend the wire to follow the leaf from the base to the tip, couching all the while, then down to the base again. Finally, you bend the wire out to form the leaf stem and couch the two corners together. Then you do buttonhole stitch all around the outside edge. I have several options for filling, and have yet to decide which I will do.
Here is the piece as of Thursday afternoon, with the dragonfly finished on it. There are also two raspberries applied on it. After I anchored them onto the base fabric, I added some beads in various coordinating shades of red and pink. It gives them a little shine, just like real berries.
After I draw up the directions, I will also be posting the awesome tip Jane gave for starting buttonhole stitch in stumpwork. I never will have to try to figure out how to get it started again. And it is so simple.

THE Magpie