Saturday, 25 June 2016

Welsh Poppy revisited

As it's Sew in Love's eleventh blog-o-versary tomorrow, I thought I must mark occasion with a post!  What better thing to talk about than revisiting and improving a project from a couple of years ago that I wasn't very pleased with.

The problem with this one was the leaves, especially the darker one.  I just couldn't seem to get the shading right and it only looked decent upside down!!!  Also, it's a teeny bit puckered (a problem I constantly have with heavy embroideries, despite backing my fabric and making sure it's all held very taut in a hoop) I was wondering what to do with it as I didn't want to display it and it didn't seem to fit anything else.

Recently I needed a small piece to put into a baptism card and this one, turned on it's side so as to both fit better and to lead the eye more to the flower than it otherwise might have, met my needs about as perfectly as it could as long as you ignore the fact that the main stem shading is clearly upside down!!  The good thing is, by far the majority of people wouldn't notice that at all. =)

I'm almost out of white card blanks and I can't get any more as the company who made these seem to have long since disappeared from the marketplace, so I had to paint around the rim with white acrylic (not terribly well, I'm sorry to say....), in order to have a white 'mount' effect.  I liked it, just need to make sure and get it without any spills next time.

So, happy eleventh blog anniversary to Sew in Love and here's hoping that the next eleven go ever better!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Friday, 17 June 2016

New hardanger scatter cushion well in progress

Exciting!  I'd been admiring some other embroiderers' hardanger work on Instagram and wanting to be able to do another piece myself for a few weeks and now it's in progress! =)

Here's the floss toss, including a plain peach fabric which will back the actual stitching and peep through the cutwork areas and a patterned piece that will be the cushion backing.

You might remember that I showed this scatter cushion cover last week and said I intended to cut the design down as I found it too busy for my simpler tastes.  Well, here is the section I'm working:

And now photos of my progress so far taken one day apart - and showing how much time I've had for stitchery from Sunday to Tuesday of this week!!!  I was quite amused to see how much positive attention a photo of the tiny central diamond attracted on my Instagram stream, ending up as my most 'liked' photo.  It seemed strange when there was so little to see. =)

I'm now working on the final stages of the surface work - the cable stitch outlining and then some eyelets in the four 'outlying' squares.

What do you think?  Like it?  I'm loving the colours.  I don't think I've ever really done a peach coloured piece before and it makes a lovely change.  Peach was my high school best friend, Wendy's favourite colour.  Coincidentally enough, whilst waiting for my doc's appointment (nothing serious, just a persistent sinus infection), I met up with another old schoolmate who I hadn't seen for 25 years.  An 'old flame' in fact as we were an item for about a week!!!  Fun that we still recognised each other. I've been 18 again in my mind and listening to tapes I made back in sixth form ever since.  Need to wake up now, get on with the housework and be back to the present day...

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Anniversary things finished

I had a feeling of déjà vu this anniversary.  Last year I didn't feel very satisfied with the things I'd made for Sir, and this year was pretty much the same.  He liked them well enough, so that's what really mattered, but I wish I'd done things just a little differently....

The Bible cover project was a bit of a bodged up job as, sadly, the textile I'd created here was too the tiniest bit too short and one of the four inner flap edges (two on each of the two flaps, of course), didn't catch in the main seam.  I had to sew it up by hand.  Also, some of the decorative seams are straining a bit and won't last well Having said that, he's pleased with it and he likes the fabrics and the gold zig-zagging.  I do too, I just wish the whole piece had been just half a centimetre or so 'taller' so that the seams wouldn't have failed and there would be just the tiniest bit of give in the length, thus avoiding some of the stretch.  Still, it was a first attempt at several things - creating this sort of fabric weaving effect, using metallics in the machine, making the cover at all and doing the fastening stuff.

For any future projects of this type, I'll be making the whole thing at least 1cm bigger than needed and I'll make a press-stud flap, or something similar, instead of trying to do Chinese knotwork with the most horribly springy elasticated cord.  Totally unsuitable for the job!  I need to look into some good alternatives.

The card wasn't too bad, but I wish I'd thought on to put a fancy paper shape under the stitching as I did the first time I did this kind of crafted XS card.  Need to remember that for next time too.  Lots of learning curves!!!  Not a bad thing on the whole, but I often wish I could learn in a 'safer' environment than to be always experimenting with new techniques on someone's gift.  So, I'm looking into courses again....

Again, I only used things that I had in stash for these projects with the exception of the elasticated cord, which I had to spend an extravagant 35p (US 50c) on!!!  I've recently used up quite a few things and run others down quite low.  I'm going to need some more Bondaweb soon, esp. if there are to be any more of this sort of project in the offing.

Coming up soon:  A new hardanger scatter cushion cover project and a small thread painting that I thought I'd never use mounted in a nice card.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Projects in progress and on standby

'Project on Standby'.  Isn't that so much nicer and more positive a term than 'Unfinished Object', or 'UFO'?? =)  Sometimes I call them 'stalled projects' too.

Of course, long-time readers (you kind souls!) will know that I don't 'do' UFOs.  I always try my hardest to finish my projects as I dislike wasting work done in the past and the time spent on it.  Wasting time is soooo much worse than wasting money, and that's bad enough!  OK, so I'll admit that I have pulled out the work on a couple of small pieces and dumped the idea, but it gets thoroughly dumped, not just dropped in a drawer or box waiting for the elusive 'someday' as when we say, "Someday I'll finish that".  I do have a few 'Someday I'll start on that's though....  But that's another story.  After Janet Granger's post this morning on projects she wants to give attention to after a major finish, I felt a similar stock-take coming on, so let's talk about things that need finishing off and other things that I'm planning to get done soon for this summer's shows.

I really need to get back to and complete the little hardanger samples you can see here and that I plan to mount in small, coordinating cards.  Thankfully, one of the shows I hope to be entering (Heckington in Lincolnshire - where we'll be on holiday/vacation the same week), has a 'Handmade Greetings Card' class, so that will give me some impetus to get them completed so as to be able to exhibit at least one, especially as there are free exhibitor entry passes for anyone entering 15 or more items.

I also want to get that needle-painted violet finished off and, as my confidence in my needle-painting skills has been boosted by the success of the white roses, I feel more ready to get back to that one.

And, of course, there's still the old Paradise Island cross stitch, which I've worked a few hours on since we moved here 4 months ago and currently looks like this:

You might be able to see a tiny white dot on the very top edge of the photo, just left of the centre.  That's where, alarmingly enough, a hole has appeared in the fabric!  It's outside the design area and should be taken in under the finishing fabric when the time comes, but I'm keeping an eye on it in the meantime.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to invest in some Fray Check.

However, before any of that comes back into commission, there are anniversary things to finish as it's our 17th on Sunday and, as usual, I'm making a couple of things for Sir.  This year, (after having bought him something he wanted earlier in the year), there's a card, for which this is the cross stitched piece.  Just needs pressing and mounting.  I'm going to have another go at surface mounting, I think, but I haven't fully decided yet.  Need to get my card blanks out and experiment a bit.

In addition to that, I'm in the middle of making him a new Bible cover, because his old one, as you can very clearly see in the first photo here, was incredibly worn and absolutely unfit to be seen.  I've 'lent' him mine, which is in much better condition, for the interim period as he's very much a cover fan and rarely goes without one.

Yup, you've guessed it - using up some scraps from the oriental baby quilt. =)  I just need to strengthen the machine zig-zag stitching on the outer edges where it could easily fray, organise some kind of fastening and then finally seam across the top and bottom including a lining.  These covers look so clever, but once you turn them fully inside-out, they're amazingly simple.  More on this one when it's done.

I'll also have some mounting of older pieces that I can enter in the shows to do (including a slight repair/improvement to the goldwork viola) and this hardanger cushion cover to start.  I'm not going to work the whole thing as, I don't know what you think, but I find it too 'busy' a design to be really attractive as it is.  I plan to do the central diamond and some of the squares abutting it, but probably nothing more.  Maybe one or two small surface motifs in the corners, but not cutwork.  What do you say?

A productive summer coming up!  What about you?  What are your creative plans for the next few months?

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Monday, 6 June 2016

Wedding pillow - lettering and finishing up

The final stages of the project coming up today! I managed to transfer some of my mobile phone photos over to the laptop too, so have included one of those shots here as well - one of me working on the lettering!! =)  As you can see, I have an incredibly high-tech, fancy, professional set-up - balancing my plain old embroidery hoop on the edge of my desk!!!

I was working on a lilac and light cappuccino shot silk fabric and so I chose a light gold thread to stand out well against the mid-toned background.  I tried a few metallic shades against it, but this was the one that really stood out - Kreinik Very Fine Braid in 102C couched down with coordinating Kreinik Cord in 102.

This third photo really shows the sheen on the flowers and also the good contrast of the pale gold.

I had originally planned to work the letters and numbers in a sort of solid method, probably by couching in rows, but owing to time limitations and, if I'm totally honest, complete lack of confidence in being able to pull off my first idea (and no time to trial it), made me think that outlining would be best.  I owe that idea to Amber of Ambrosia Stitches who, when I asked for ideas on Instagram, asked me if I was going to outline or fill the shapes, thus planting the idea of simplifying in my mind.

Here's the completed embroidery in the hoop before I removed and trimmed it for finishing.  As you can see, there were two lots of different light when I took these photos as they were done at different times of day and also in two opposite windows.  I've yet to work out the best lighting in our new home!!

Below you can see the completed pillow.  Sadly, I didn't get a very good full frontal shot of it as there was too much light bleaching out one side (as you can see a little here too), and I couldn't wait for a better time as I was about to hand it over!!

The finishing process was fairly simple.  After pressing the backing fabric and as much of the piece as I could (I was most disappointed to see I'd failed to avoid puckering....), I trimmed the surplus fabric away from the work and placed a line of tacking style stitches along the line I'd marked on the front when first transferring the design.  Then I placed the right sides together with a small piece of cotton based fabric (a reject square from one of the baby quilts!!) in between and tacked to the backing to protect both the stitching and the cream backing silk from getting scuffed on the metal work stitches.  They were tacked just next to the marking stitches, leaving the bottom open except for a centimetre or so each side of the corners.  I machine stitched just inside the marking stitches, trimmed off the corner excess and pressed back the edges of the open side.  After removing the tacking and marking stitches and putting some toy stuffing in to make a proper little cushion shape, I slip stitched the bottom edge closed.  Done!

I was delighted to hear that the bridal pair were thrilled with it and this photo was kindly sent by the groom's mum the day before the wedding.

You can also get some idea of the size from this shot too.  It's only a 7"/18cm sided square, so only a souvenir size.

Glad to have a bit project done and so it's on to anniversary things for Sir and also making things for the two or three shows I hope to enter this summer.  More on all of those soon.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Wedding pillow - white roses

Part three of the wedding pillow.  Today let's look at the roses.

I didn't seem to take many WIP photos with my digital camera, but there are plenty on my Instagram stream, if anyone would like to see more.  @sew_in_love_blog

Instagram is great and easy to use.  All you need is a simple smart phone to set it up, then you can also follow your selected accounts on a computer if you want to.  Quite a number of needlework bloggers already have accounts and we often post there well before blogging as it's so quick to do, whereas a blog posting can take quite a lot of writing and tweaking.  I didn't have time to stop and blog during this project, but a quick shot on my phone camera and upload to IG meant that followers were able to track my progress in real time.  It was quite fun!!!

I've now filled in the Pipers Silk colours for the rest of the project on the previous post and the white rose petals were worked in White, Ecru, Pale Mushroom, Pale Sycamore, Sycamore, Lime Yellow and Bright Lime, with some tiny stitches in China Pink at the base of the rosebud.

This last one shows some of the sheen nicely, although it isn't the sharpest of photos.

Next time I'll share the lettering and the finishing up into a small cushion/pillow.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Baby projects complete!

It's a rare occurrence for me, but I managed to finish off all four baby projects in accordance with Prince Albert's maxim: 'It's always best to complete a task well ahead of schedule.'  They were all done a couple of weeks ago (I needed to clear the decks of other projects before I could focus on the wedding pillow) and are ready to hand over to the prospective parents tomorrow. =)

Above, of course, is the finished up red baby cardy.  I used little star shaped buttons for novelty value as embroidery would have been overkill on this one.

Next I'm proud to present two baby cot/crib quilts, one in reds, neutrals and orientals for a mixed race (white/oriental) baby boy:

And one in pastels and florals for a white girl.  I asked the father-in-waiting which colours they'd like and he suggested blues and greens.  I didn't have very many of those (most of my fabrics seem to be reds, pinks and purples), so I added in a couple of florals and some lilacs as well.  I like both combos, but this one is my favourite.

My next sewing task is to make a new Bible cover for my husband whose old one was a disgrace - worn out and shabby well beyond being fit to be seen.  He liked the colours in the red quilt, so I fished out the little scraps left over from making that to put together for his cover, which will be the remaining part of his anniversary present this year (he had the rest a couple of  months ago).  I also need to make a card and found some cute cross stitch designs that shouldn't eat up too much time to make.  There's already another baby knit in progress and I'll show you how that's coming on next weekend.

Plenty coming up this summer as I haven't even started talking about the Show pieces yet!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Wedding pillow - stitching the lavender and greenery

Part two of the wedding pillow piece coming up......

I decided to start with the sprig of lavender as I thought it would be the most bitty and also, in a way, the most challenging to stitch.  The rest would be needle-stroke heavy (i.e. time consuming), but this was the part I was most uncertain of.

I started with the blue and purple flower section and used the A-Z book I mentioned last time and my own colour plan as guides.  Working to a smaller scale, I had to simplify somewhat, but it worked out ok in one shade of purply blue: Flax Blue, two bluey purples: Pansy and Pale Pansy, and one light, reddish purple: Crocus.

The greenery was worked in two shades of green: Pastel Green and Peppermint, and a tiny bit of brown: Mid Brown was added at the bottom.
The next part was the rosebud and I went for the sepals and stem before the petal section.

Greens were a bit of a problem as, whilst I have more greens than any other single colour in my Pipers Silks box, there are still nowhere near enough to get the shades right.  There are only about 21 greens as opposed to about 80 in my stranded cotton collection!  As far as I can discern now (I neglected to take colour notes at the time), I used seven shades: Leaf, Pale Leaf, Fir Green, Dark Green, Pale Olive, Muscat and Bronze Gold

These green parts were a lot trickier and more time consuming than I'd expected, especially with the tiny touches of Dark Terracotta and Dark Cerise around the edges which, if I'd honest, hid a multitude of uneven edges!!

It was much the same story with the open rose greenery.  I did the stem first and then completely forgot the thread-painting rule of working back to front and did the sepals before the leaves.  I think I was on a 'finish with this colour' role and just forgot how important it is to observe that working method if you don't want problems with abutting edges later on.

Would you believe that the lower leaf here took two hours to work?  TWO HOURS!!

In this photo you can see how incongruous some of the greens really are - especially the stems. =(  It didn't look too bad as a whole, but the rose greens are really too lurid to be realistic.  I was very tempted to order some more shades, but not only did I remember that I am NOT buying any more threads - 1632 is more than enough - but also that I was working under time pressure and couldn't really wait several days for the order to arrive, so I escaped an illicit thread splurge!

Here's the whole piece as I ended it that day having made a small start on the back petals of the rosebud.  More on the roses next week and on my baby projects over the weekend.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Monday, 23 May 2016

Designing and preparing to stitch a souvenir wedding pillow

If you've been following me on Instagram, you'll have seen this whole project through to completion, but, as it was a rush job, I didn't have time to blog it until now.  IG is great as a whole post can be done in just one or two minutes, although the picture quality often isn't so good and the editing features are limited.

Less yadder, more project.

An old chum is getting married down in London next weekend and I wanted to make him a little something to mark his big day.  I usually ask my friend(s) whether they would like a ring cushion, a wedding sampler sort of thing or something for their home (usually a scatter cushion cover).  I had an idea of a sort of sampler for this couple as the groom's mum had told me that they already had a ring cushion, so I asked her to run it past them.  I got a very useful design brief in return, that they'd like a wedding souvenir cushion, even if only a small one, with white roses, their initials and the date on, and could they have a sprig of lavender too?

I used the open rose and rosebud from Trish Burr's 'Long and Short Stitch Embroidery - A Collection of Flowers' and remembered that there was a lavender piece in 'The A-Z of Thread Painting'.  I traced them, scanned the tracings, resized them and printed them out along with some letters and numbers using a nice font in MS Word (here showing the 28 05 bit accidentally printed out in italic!!)  Each element was cut out and tried in various combinations in a square outline.

Then it was time to move on to colour selection.  I love this part of the process as I adore colour and getting just the right shade is important to me.  Here you can see me with my Anchor colour chart, bags of DMC stranded and a white rosebud photo on my tablet to help me adapt the pinks from the book designs to the needed white (which is to be their main wedding flower).  You can also see my new work area in this shot.

The next stage was to decide which colour was to go where on the thread painted elements, so I made some more copies of the flowers and planned out the shadings.

Following on from that was the tracing of the design onto this lovely lilac and light brown shot silk.

As you can see, I have zero fancy equipment.  Apart from the fact that I have no room to store it, I resent spending money on a specialist item when things that I already have to hand will do just as well.  I frequently use a window as a light box.  In this case, I pinned the tracing (which I'd made good and dark) to the back of the fabric, then taped the whole thing to the window so that it didn't slip during the process.  The pattern was drawn on the fabric using a 0.3mm black biro that I got in Taiwan.

Once the fabric was in the hoop and ready to start stitching, I began to feel that, not only was stranded cotton a little 'large' for the size of the design (the whole thing would be a square with 7"/22cm sides), but that I wanted more sheen.  So, the choice was clear - switch to Piper's Silks.  Each strand is about the same gauge as one of sewing cotton, so about half that of a strand of regular embroidery floss.

I have over 500 shades of stranded cotton, and only 117 of Piper's Silk, so I found my colour choices a little more limited, but, as usual, this only seemed to matter when it came to greens and neutrals.  Funny how other colours can seem to substitute for near shades quite well, but greens, browns and greys always have to be right.  I have 50% again as many greens as most other shades, but still had to make do somewhat.  I nearly ordered some more, but remembered my crafts No Buy in time!!!  I'd also have had to buy more storage for them, which wouldn't have been good.  I also could foresee a saving in stitching time as there's only one 'white' in Piper's, but two in Anchor!!

Next post on this project will show the working of the lavender and the rose greenery.  Hope you like the look of this piece so far! =)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016

Monday, 25 April 2016

Having pregnant friends means.....

lots of baby makes!

While I haven't been blogging much over recent months, I have been doing some needlecrafts of various sorts.  Here are the results of having pregnant friends in my circle and my wanting to use up my knitting yarns and some of the padding stuff I had stashed away.

First of all, another cardigan in my old favourite pattern for a little girl due in June/July:

As you can see, it's finished, but I was over-zealous with the ironing and flattened it out too much. Yesterday, a new crafting friend told me it would plump up somewhat when washed, which I had wondered about too.  Can anyone with good knitting experience advise here, please?

The second baby cardy, for the son of the Franco-Malaysian couple you may remember me making a wedding ring pillow for and who is due late July is almost finished.  I've done a fair bit more on the rib button band than shows here and hope to finish this one off soon.  Not sure I'll stitch anything on to it as it would probably be OTT given the nice diamond pattern.

This one has been an interesting project as I've been using up a yarn that claims to be 4-ply, but certainly isn't.  It's not quite DK either and when I did some tiny knitted up samples to test it against scraps of 4-ply and DK, it measured as mid-way between them.  Seems to be about 6-ply.  So, I'm using a 4-ply pattern at the 0-3 months size, but the 3-6 months lengths along with size 9 and 11 needles and it's working out OK.  I may try to do a pair of matching mittens - even attempt to put the diamond on them, in order to use up more of the 100g ball as I really won't be able to use it alongside other yarns.

Onto the quilting now and I'm also working baby quilts for both of these summer arrivals.

The girl's one is almost done.  I just need to mitre the corners and then slip stitch the backing in place.  I'll probably be saving that final sewing to do when with mum as it's a fairly easy task and I'll be able to carry it around with me.  She enjoys seeing what I'm doing too and has been following along with my knitting. =)

The boy's one is a bit further back and needs the 'X's putting in at the square joins, then the backing trimming and pinning before it gets to the above stage.

I've various fair sized scraps of DK yarn left, so I thought I'd get a 50g ball of white and then make a sort of patchwork cardigan at 6-12 month size for the little girl.  The colours won't suit a boy - pink, lilac, peach etc, but should be good worked in squares with white to break it up a bit and for the edges.  Hopefully that will sort out my odds and ends.  The wadding needed for these two quilts has used up 80% of my supply too, and the also a number of bits of fabric, so that's all great in helping me use up stash.  The only things I've bought for these projects were the flower buttons for the lilac cardy as I don't stock buttons.

Other than that, there are two engaged couples and one or two more who probably will be later on this year, so there are weddings galore to stitch for.  I'm working on a design for the first one and will share that soon.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2016