Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Work in Progress Wednesday - 17 September 2014

I did have some WIPW progress to report last week, I just didn't have the time and opportunity to do it, sadly.  The photo above was the one taken for last week.

As you can see from this morning's shot, I haven't done a lot more.  Just one session last night, in fact.  It's coming on a lot more slowly than I'd hoped.  It's nothing to do with difficulty, boredom, or anything like that, it's more time, strength and other things.  Anyway, it is progressing, however slowly, and that's the main thing, right?

Getting good photographs seems to be a real challenge with a black background.  Maybe it's just rank incompetence on my part (likely), but I can't seem to get a shot that shows good, clear 'X's when I get in close up.  Any thoughts or suggestions?

The thread reorganisation is essentially complete and I'm just about to edit the photos ready to share with you on Friday.  Stay tuned if you love threads and storage solutions.

Got a work in slow progress or a UFO you could use some group support to get on with?  Join in Work in Progress Wednesdays with Sharon B and the rest of us over at Pintangle. =)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Beginning a major thread reorganisation

'Hello!  What's occurring here?!' you may well be asking.  Well, I'm in the midst of a major overhaul of my thread storage.  I'd come to the point where I was really outgrowing my old system and my needs were changing somewhat too, so it was time to begin a rethink and, as a result of those cogitations, a rework of my set up.  This first shot shows my desk as I was experimenting with how many boxes of Mill Hill beads etc, I could get into a 0.3 litre Really Useful Box (RUB).

This second picture shows my new RUB organiser unit (which I'd been drooling over for years!) with five extra 0.3l RUBs and two 0.2l ones nearby.  You can also see in the centre right of the photo, that I bought a brown, six tube papier maché storage for pencils etc and had put some of my watercolours in it by this point.  I plan to fill up the other four tubes with various pencils etc, but haven't decided on which as yet.  Each tube holds about 36 art pencils, (more like 30 for comfort and 'movement'), so there are lots of possibilities.   I considered emptying the four Derwent boxes of 24 I had into the tubes and padding them out with others, but I'm not sure that is what I want and need to have at hand.  I'll come back to that later on.  Threads first....

Here are all of the RUB boxes filled and shelved.  The order in the display isn't final as yet as I need to think about what I need nearest to hand and, at this point, the organiser is awaiting Sir's ministrations (i.e. fastening it to the wall for safety), so having the time to think it over is helpful as all the RUBs will have to come out/off for the DIY bit.  There are a total of 23 RUBs here, nine filled with metallic spools (mostly Kreinik, but also some Coats, DMC and Madeira reels), five with sewing threads, Bobbinfil and other haberdashery items, five with beads, and one each with ribbon bobbins, reels of machine embroidery rayon, the old Kreinik Soie Perlé silks on their regular spools and buttons/trims/charms.  The last two are in the smaller, 0.2 litre RUBs.

In this fourth shot you can see the current state of the older, small four-drawer tower.  Basically, I've emptied the original contents of most of the top two drawers into the RUB organiser and the fabric colouring things have been relocated into a 3 litre RUB which you can just see if you look under the desk, bottom centre in the first photo.  The craft things in the bottom drawer will be moving into some of the boxes in my old blue craft tote workbox (from which the beads and some other things have been moved out).  The remaining reels of sewing thread have also been moved into a new box for now and the third drawer is currently a resting point for some of the threads that will eventually be housed properly in these drawers, such as coton à broder #16 and #25, skeins of DMC and Anchor metallic threads and, later probably, things like Marlitt and some or all of the Anchor pearl cottons.  I can't quite decide what's going where yet.

On top of these drawers you can see the box of Pipers Silks I've had for a while, whilst behind is another buy from Hobbycraft this last week in the shape of an art caddy box.  It was £5 and I confess to have been considering it for a while, so whilst in the holiday mood during a day out in Hull on Tuesday, I bought both this and the store tubes.  In the fifth and final picture, you can see how I've arranged my art materials in the caddy, with Winsor and Newton watercolour tubes in the top cantilever section, W&N gouache paints and Reeves acrylics in the lower cantilever, and watercolour pan palettes and my box of W&N half pastel sticks along with some paint brushes.  Thanks to clearing these out of the drawer they used to be in, I've been able to store my fabric dye box and all my mixing palettes (and my spare specs which used to sit on top of the drawer tower) where many of these paints used to live.

I decided to go ahead with my idea for reorganising my stranded cottons, especially as one reader detailed her solution as being essentially the same and working well for her (thanks, Elaine!).  However, I can't do it for a while as I really need to have all the threads 'back home' in storage and there are a few dozen 'out on location' (i.e. in WIP project bags) just now.  Once one picture is done and the other well enough in progress to make it less troublesome to deal with the needed threads, I'll get to that.  Thankfully, that part of my thread collection is independent of the rest and is OK for the time being.  Having said that, I got 35 new DMC threads the other day (I can heartily recommend this UK e-bay seller and her prices, esp. as, once you've bought skeins from her once, she offers further discounts for repeat customers) and so it's certainly getting to be a need to reorganise there too.

So, that's one of the things that have been keeping me a bit too busy to stitch or blog much.  Although it's a big job, it's coming along nicely and is rather enjoyable work.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Monday, 8 September 2014

Needlequest Update - 8 September 2014

This is how far I've got with my latest Helen M Stevens' design - just the transferring and colour selection done.  Actually, that represents almost an hour and a half's work!  I used a new piece of white carbon paper to transfer the design, so there was a LOT of extra dust to remove.  Anyway, it was done finally and I was able to get down to picking out the threads.  As you can see, I've got Anchor (from several generations of packing type!!), DMC and Kreinik here ready to use.  Hope to get stitching on it soon.=)

I want to ask readers about thread storage etc.  Now, my problem is this:  My main stranded cottons (the complete set of Anchor ones) are stored in press top bags in colour number order.  This is very convenient for getting threads out for cross stitch projects, or other pieces where I'm pulling things out according to colour number, but not so good when I'm selecting shades for today's piece.  Then my storage for the few DMC threads I own is better, where I have them arranged by colour in bags.  How can I marry these two systems up so that they're useful for both?

Of course, I have the real thread shade card for my Anchor threads and I use it a lot, but it's better to hold a real skein against your fabric etc than a tiny bit of sample thread that doesn't often reach anyway.  Any ideas  Here's the solution I thought of earlier, which I would like your opinions on:

I thought of taking all my Anchor threads and re-sorting them according to colour families and making a list of the colour numbers which I would then attach to the bag in number order.  I'd also include my DMC threads in each relevant bag and on the shade number list.  I'd also create a list of all the Anchor shades (there's one on the shade card I can copy) showing which bag they were now in so that it would be a bit easier and quicker to find needed shades for counted designs etc.  It means several hours work, but could well be the half-way house solution I need.

Will that work, do you think?  Or can you think of a way to improve it?  Thanks!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Not much work in progress this Wednesday!

Ooof, too busy for much stitching at the mo and I haven't done so much as one tiny 'x' on the Paradise Island since last Wednesday - haven't had time!  I did get the prepared fabric and the tracing for my September NQ piece out, but that's as far as any needlework has gone of late.  I've suddenly found myself mad busy!

A week or so ago, our iron went completely kaputt, so this lovely mountain of clothes etc has built up and there are more on the airer, to say nothing of the beds that need changing and ....

I've also got some Chinese classes starting on Saturday afternoon, so am thoroughly in the thick of lesson preparation!

Sir is taking a week or two off his PhD slog, but is devoting the early days of his 'holiday' to getting some jobs around the home done.  Yesterday he fixed a broken shelf in my room and sorted out an umbrella I thought was done for.  Right now, he's working on repairing the dead dining table!

So, plenty going on, but none of it stitching just now!

Hope to be back with you early next week with some 'Painted Ladies' progress.  Hope.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Monday, 1 September 2014

Needlequest - September theme - Autumn

As it turned out, there was only me working on the August technique of fabric colouring and, as most readers will know, I did some painting using proper fabric paints and also a little blusher on the raised work face!!  As I've published those very recently, I won't re-post here (I really haven't any time for blogs which keep on and on featuring the same shots....), and we'll move on instead.

'Autumn' is the theme for this month's Needlequest work.
A season is always a nice design theme as there are so many natural glories in each season to work with either as inspiration for creating our own designs, or in working someone else's.  

This blackberry and field mice design was fun to work and very English countryside in September - y.=)

So much colour is on display in nature this month with the leaves beginning to change colour on the trees, seasonal fruits becoming more readily available (and cheaper!) and much more!

I'm going to get going on this gorgeous Helen M Stevens' design showing Painted Lady butterflies near autumnal foliage and berries.  I need to get this one completed soon as it's to be a scatter cushion cover for a couple we probably won't get to see regularly for much longer!

I certainly want to finish before the view from the kitchen window is like this again: 


NB:  The Quest topics for the rest of the year have changed!  Please could particpants check out the Needlequest page to make sure they know what to expect and can see if and when they can join in.  I've changed two of the remaining three months' themes from design areas to techniques, as those seem more popular.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tutorial - simple stumpwork face

Better late than never, and I hope you find it worth waiting for...

Today's tutorial is to create a simple, whimsical raised work face.  I don't often do this sort of 'cartoon' look, so it was an interesting challenge for me to learn too!

I hope you enjoy it and will have a go at making your own cute little face embroidery and will leave a comment with a link to a photo of it.=)

First of all, this piece was worked largely from one of the, sadly, deleted Coats 'Card It' kits.  Here are the contents of that kit and, in the second photo, the changes I made to the colouring of the girl's face.  This was to be a little congratulations card for my niece who got her good GSCE results last Thursday and she isn't a blue-eyed blonde, so I changed to brown thread and beads to match her more closely.  (GCSEs are the national exams all English, Welsh and Northern Irish youngsters sit at age 16.)

Of course, you can do that with the skin tone as well.  So, if you wanted to work an Oriental, Indian or black face, you'd simply select the correct shade of brown for the skin fabric and browns and black for the hair and eyes.
Mount your main background fabric into a small hoop.  I used one just 10cm/4 inches in diameter.

Cut a 5cm/2inch circle from the contrasting fabric you plan to put behind the face and a 4cm/1½5inch circle from your face fabric.  As you can see here, the kit used evenweave fabrics for all three pieces, but I don't see any reason why plainweaves won't work just as well.
Attach the contrasting fabric to the main fabric using random straight stitches and a co-ordinating thread.

Of course, this stage is optional as you don't have to have this contrast trim at all.

Now we move on to creating the head.  Above are the instructional diagrams from the kit (which I thought were pretty good).

Using a matching sewing cotton, stitch a line of running stitches all around the face fabric circle about ½cm/just over ¼ inch from the edge.  Make sure that you secure the thread well at the start with a knot.

Pull the thread up tight and, after having inserted a tiny bit of cotton wool or toy stuffing type material, secure the  back well.  Be careful not to put very much stuffing in, or else you could be dealing with an unnatural protruding face which will be hard to shape later on.
Using small stab stitches and a matching sewing thread, attach the stuffed face to the backing.  Where you position it in the circle will depend on whether or not you want to put some lettering underneath and/or something on the head - a hat or, in this case, a crown.
When you've been all around the edge of the face, this is what it should look like.  Don't worry if it's a little uneven.  You can probably shape anything too odd looking with your fingers and/or a few extra stitches.
Next are the eyes.  Take a beading needle and some matching sewing or embroidery thread and attach seed beads about a third of the way down the face.  Eyes are about half way down a real face, but you may not want all that room above this for this cartoon-style face, especially if you want to add some type of headgear.  If not, place them a tiny bit further down and bring the front hair down further too.

Try to make sure the beads sit well, (one of mine is a little skew...), and pull the thread quite tightly so that the beads pull the face in a little and give it more shape.
Using the same kind of well-pulled stitching, put in a mouth outline using small running and back stitches.

Take care not to pull too tight for either of these stages.  You want to aim to create a little realism in the shape, not to have steep dips - or break the thread!
Now is time to start on the hair section.  There's a lot of room for variety here, so experiment a little and use your imagination.  Afro hair could be created with thicker threads, perhaps pearl cottons which have a good bit of twist and/or French knots.  Here, long, straight stitches using three strands of regular floss were used.

Make sure you cover in the sides well by putting some stitches along the side of the head.
When you've more or less finished, have a good look at the face and see what needs to be adjusted.

I felt the the hairline at the left hand forehead part was a little too angular and my girl looked a bit pale.  So, I put in some more stitches for the hair and, in proper womanly style - painted in her cheeks with a tiny bit of blusher on a small eyeshadow brush!!  Apart from the bead that doesn't sit well (and makes her look cross-eyed - you could even do that on purpose, if you wanted to!), below is the finished face:

This kit was for a head with a crown on and a small piece of pink felt came with it to create that.  I drew out a crown shape on the small square provided using the template in the instructions as a rough guide.

If you want to create a hat, you can use much the same method and cut the shape out of any suitable material: felt, leather, some low- or non-fray fabric, or even a more delicate fabric that you've stabilised by putting some iron-on interfacing or Bondaweb on the back of.
Stitch down the headgear shape using whatever colour and type of thread seem to best meet your requirements and with a size and quantity of straight stitches that you think will fit in with the look you want to create.

Add in some beads and trims as you like.  On the crown, there were six beads to be spaced out along the bottom, which also removed the need to stitch down the bottom edge of the crown shape.  If you do want to stitch down the lower edge of your headgear, take care not to pull too tight or the hat will look like it's squashing the head rather!
Each point of the crown had a start sequin with a bead on top too.  Come up though both then go back down under the bead, but back through the sequin hole to secure the whole trim.

Above is the finished face with crown and below, complete with some lettering (which would have been better done in a darker shade!!) and mounted in a small, circular aperture greetings card blank.

What do you think?  Could you manage to have a go at that?  It only takes about 60-90 minutes to complete, so may be the perfect project for a 'me time' evening.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Work in Progress Wednesday - 27 August 2014

I haven't made a great deal of progress lately, but I simply haven't had the time.  As you can see, I got a bit bored of blue, blue and more blue, so I decided to do a bit on the foreground flowers instead - yellow!  Shades of the Tudor Lady!!!

As ever, please pop over to Pintangle to find out more about the WIPW blog-along.

Thanks so much to all of you for your kind congratulations on my show wins post on Monday.=)  In all fairness, I should tell you that the Sheffield Fayre horticultural show is a relatively small and 'young' event (this was it's 14th year, as opposed to the huge Leeds Flower Show, which had it's 150th anniversary this year), run by a relaxed and encouraging team.  Judging won't be anything like as stringent as many of the bigger, longer established affairs, teh whole place is just too friendly.  Just very Sheffield, really!=)  Fun though, and I'm looking forward to next year's event already...

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Monday, 25 August 2014

I won, gosh!

Wow!  I won!  I got first and third prizes in both the categories I'd entered - 'Embroidered Item' and 'Cross Stitch - not from a kit'.  The second category was a little ambiguous as I interpreted it very literally indeed, whereas it seems that the actual meaning is something one has designed oneself.  The second prize entry was self designed and I did 'fess up and say that mine were slightly adapted from commercial charts, but as the category wasn't clear, it wouldn't have been fair to penalise me, so I won instead!!

The stumpwork bunny rabbit came first in the 'Embroidered Item' category and the recent wedding ring cushion won third prize.  I should have tidied the display up a bit before the photo was taken, but I was so excited at having won that I didn't even notice the rabbit's rather perpendicular ear and the ring cushion being upside down until afterwards.LOL!

In the cross stitch section, the Tudor Lady came 'only' third, whilst the 'Sunshine and Flowers' sampler won the first prize.  I'd only entered that one for the sake of it and as it qualified for the timescale (which is 3 years in this show - most unusual!)

So, I came away walking 10 feet tall (that's 3 metres for those of you who speak metric), with £10 of prize money in my pocket and a feeling that this was a most successful first year in the show!=)

Aim for next year?  Win the Best in Section (Craft) rosette....

PS Sorry for the delay in getting the new tute out to you.  It's in progress, but I haven't been able to finish it up just yet.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Work in Progress Wednesday - 20 August 2014

I'm taking a blog writing break just now.  No, not a break from blog posting, but a break from proof-reading a chapter of Sir's doctoral thesis to write my blog!!=)  It's not time for a holiday from my blog just yet.  I might take a week off every quarter or so.  At the moment though, I've too much to show to want to get that far behind with posting.

I've been working a little on the Paradise Island cross stitch and there's still not so much to see.  The first picture is how far I got on the last day I posted about it, a week ago.  The second one is after two  more sessions' work.  It looks a bit like a map at the moment.  The 'V' at the bottom left hand side reminds me a bit of the outline of India on a proper globe, but the wrong colour, of course!!

This piece is the complete opposite of the Tudor Lady.  This piece is whole cotton cross stitches only, whereas the last one was cross stitch, petit point, satin stitch, beading, rayons, metallics and what have you.  This is simplicity itself and will make a nice change to stitch.=)

As always, head over to Pintangle to see what the rest of the WIPW-ers have been doing.

There should be a tutorial coming up this weekend!  I'm just going to make a start on writing it/preparing the photos, so look out for that, Friday or Saturday.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

Needlequest Update - 18 August 2014

Hi!  Welcome to another week and another Needlequest update and piece completed.=)  This is a rather experimental small piece, but I'm quite pleased with the finish,

First I painted the whole flower using the paints I showed you last NQ post.  I was amazed at just how pearlescent the pearl paint is, even more than the metallic, I think!

I created the colours I wanted by mixing pearl, metallic and regular fabric paints together and, although one of the greens came out a little more lurid than I'd wanted, (I should have added red earlier than I did!) I was favourably surprised at how well I'd remembered colour mixing theory!!!

The next stage was to select some colours to stitch with.  I decided to use some of my new DMC threads for two reasons: 1) I bought them and want to use them; and 2) They're easier to select from as they're still all hanging around in clear plastic bags in colour groups, so I can just pick them up and see what I want straight away, rather than mess around with the Anchor colour chart and then fishing the skeins out of the box.  Oh, yes, there's another reason for choosing DMC for this project and that is that, as several other experienced stitchers have noted, DMC shades are brighter and just that little bit shinier than Anchor ones.  One project needs one type and another project the other brand.

Here are the colours I pulled out.  I used five of them - both yellows, both pinks and the brownest green, #580.

Here are the results, the top photo showing detail and the contrasting textures and the second shot giving an overview of the whole piece.

I just need to mount it in a card blank now and get it in the post to my brother tomorrow as his anniversary is on Wednesday.=)

Something for my fellow Needlequesters to think over:

I've noticed that techniques and styles seem to attract better levels of participation than design themes do, so I'm planning on changing the topics for two of the four remaining months of the challenge.  I'm going to leave September as 'Autumn' as that's a fairly easy design theme to work with and, of course, 'Stumpwork' will stay in.  Other than that, I'm considering two from '3D Stitches', 'Hardanger' and 'Miniaturisation' for the other two months.  Any preferences?  Also, as stumpwork and 3D stitches are related, which order should it all go in if we had both of those, would you say?

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014