Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Needlequest October - 3D Stitches

A new month and a new Quest.  This month it's 3D stitches, embroidery stitches that in themselves, without padding, wiring or other 'external' support, have a 3D effect.  They're not stumpwork as such, (although I have seen pieces worked from 3D stitches labelled as 'stumpwork'), but are often used in stumpwork designs.  They're also used prolifically in Brazilian embroideries, such as the only one I ever managed shown here!!

To be honest, I'm no expert when it comes to 3D stitches, so I'm looking forward to learning a lot over the next month.  I've tried some before and not got along well with them, so I hope to learn more and improve my relationship with ones I've tried such as bullions and cast on stitch.

Here are some other examples to whet your appetites to join in!  The first sample is mostly of ghiordes knot/turkey stitches, but there are also french knots in both stranded cotton and ribbon.  Yes, many knot stitches qualify.=)

After that comes padded satin stitch.  Although this has padding, it's an integral part of the stitch itself, being worked in the same thread.

Here's a dense bunching of French knots worked in metallic threads which provide some texture in the piece.

I can't quite remember the name of this fourth one.  Something like ribbed spider's web wheel.  It was one of the stitches back in 2012 in TAST.  Definitely a useful looking one, I think.  I want to have a go at developing it further.

More bullion and french knots in an old favourite piece.  I wish I could find more designs like this.  I suppose I should have a go at creating some myself...

So, my plan is to try and work a small sample each week, both developing my experience with stitches I already know and enlarging my repertoire

Blogging plans for this month are:
Mondays - NQ post featuring my 3D stitch samples
Wednesdays - WIPW post with the previous week's work on the Paradise Island cross stitch picture
Fridays - Update on the Helen M Stevens' Painted Ladies picture.
I'm not promising each one every week, but that's the goal.

What are your stitching plans for this month?  Why not leave a comment, with a link to your blog if you like, and share your goals.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Needlequest September round up

Well, I had hoped to complete half of this piece this month, basically all but the butterflies, so the autumn foliage and berries in keeping with the theme for the month, but I only managed a couple of mediocre-ly worked berries and let my piece gather dust - literally!  Things did not go according to plan this last month, with this or other things.

Speaking of other things, thanks very much to those who sent some comforting clucks and pats on the shoulder last time.  I really appreciated that.=)  I feel a lot better now, even though it's not fully cleared up yet and isn't likely to be for some weeks yet,  People get bees in their bonnets about nothing, then go and do dumb things and sometimes others get very much caught up in and hurt by it.

OK, back on topic.

I'm happy to say that I wasn't working alone this month with the NQ as Wendy has been working on her 12 month hardanger piece and has completed the September block.  I'm assuming it's not that the blocks themselves are seasonal, but that it's meant to be a block worked per month?  I missed any earlier segments, so I'm not sure, but it's very pretty and was worth Wendy's hard work on it.=)

So, yeah, September hasn't been the best on a few fronts, but I'm still alive and kicking and hoping to progress my two current projects substantially, plus do some work on October's NQ theme (more on that tomorrow) and to be able to share more pretties with you all in the weeks to come.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Work in Progress Wednesday - 24 September 2014

Here we are for the WIPW update.  I really haven't done much stitching at all recently. Sadly, I've been forced to deal with the acute distress caused by someone interfering in and sabotaging my private arrangements without getting their facts straight. (Update Sunday: I've now found out who and what is at Ground Zero of this.....)


I've also been away for some work etc and so really haven't been getting much done.  Having said that, i had chance to return to the Leeds branch of Hobbycraft who are selling off their Anchor Coton à Broder #25 at about 20% of the normal price, so I grabbed another 8 skeins to help build my collection.  Thread therapy!!  I've been making lists of the beads I plan to treat myself to at the Harrogate Show this year as well and got one more 0.3l Really Useful Box to store them in the other day.

Thanks to Rachel and Kate for suggestions on how to improve the photography situation.  I tried Rachel's today, being the simplest, namely trying black and white card behind the piece, and the white card as well as focusing more on the main progress area (the flowers this time) seems to have helped.  I will try the more techy idea, Kate, I just need more peace of mind and time to play first.

To see others' WIPW updates and find out more about the 'group', click on over to Pintangle.

Now, I must crack on as it's visiting mum day and I still have to shower, make and eat lunch and what have you.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Thread reorganisation essentially complete

Hello!  Today I'm going to share the results of my big reorganisation project.  This may turn out to be a 'thread envy' type of post as it features virtually every embroidery thread I currently own, but I just want to say that the reason I'm creating it is to share my pleasure at having completed a big job and maybe even give some helpful storage ideas for those in need of them.  Bragging or showing off doesn't come into the equation.

Many of the threads I've got here came in newsgroup stash exchanges, or when I've been given gift money or ONS gift vouchers/certificates.  Some have been special offers on e-bay and some have been me reinvesting money I'd just made by selling my own stuff on e-bay, or just by plain saving up pocket money.

It's also a collection ranging back over 12 years and there aren't any really pricey ranges here, such as Au Ver a Soie, or Silk Mill, where you're looking at around £3 per skein.  Most of my stuff is around £1 per item, even the silks!

OK, having got the 'non-bragging disclaimer' done with, the first photo shows the completed drawer tower.  The thing is, before, I had things I didn't use very often in these drawers, such as haberdashery and papercraft supplies, and that was mad given that it's very much on-hand storage for me, right next to my desk and easy to use.  Now it holds almost exclusively embroidery threads.

As you can see, I moved the art caddy and silks box off the top (the art caddy being far too heavy and the silks running the risk of fading in direct sunlight), and put them on the floor.  I've re-placed the Kleenex on the drawers' top instead, which also frees up the desk space again.  I love as clear a desk as I can manage.

Here are the four drawers now:

The first contains packs of needles, some elastic etc and some cotton and paper round moulds for making stumpwork fruit etc at the back (left hand side here).  The front holds my organza ribbon pack, three packs of scraps of metallic threads, both from use and the smaller bits from a Kreinik Bag-of-Bits that I went through thoroughly the other day and sorted out well.  Other than that, there are a bundle of DMC skein metallic threads and five or six Anchor ones in there as well.

Moving on to drawer two and, with the exception of the DMC Linen threads collection, all these are variegated to one degree or another.  There are some DMC and Anchor multi-colours in stranded cotton and pearl #5 as well as a few from the Caron Collection and some Weeks Dye Works multis at the back.  The front section holds the rest of the WDW and also some Gentle Arts Sampler Threads.  I had a whole lot more, but sold them about 5 years ago as I really couldn't see myself using them, so I just keep useful looking shades.  I've also separated out some Anchor multi-colours in pearl #5 and #8 to sell.

Drawer three is my favourite.  It's the least fancy being just solid colours of cotton threads, but I really like it.  At the back are some skeins of Anchor pearl cotton #5, then almost all the Anchor Coton à Broder #16 shades (not a very good collection of colours, I feel, especially the greens - yack!) and around 40% of the newer Coton à Broder #25 range.  This is almost the only section of my whole collection that I'm planning to expand in the near future as I'm currently saving up for the rest of the shades and, very likely, some of the DMC range to plug the many colour gaps.  With only 80 shades in the range, it's bound to be very limited.  It's better than it was, though, as there used only to be 40.

The bottom drawer contains 'shinies' in the form of Madeira Silks (stopped from moving around by an old pincushion!!) and Anchor Marlitt.

As I'd taken the Marlitt out of my wooden box, I had room to spread the pearl cotton #8 and #12 balls out a little more.  Those on the left are all #8 with three more in the browns section.  The rest are all #12 and there's a bit of room in the drawer to get a few more.  I'd like a few more floral shades - pretty pinks, purples and a deep red.

Although the organiser still hasn't been fixed to the wall, I've finished this section too.  One of the Really Useful Boxes I emptied and put my goldwork threads into (I don't have many as, as you might recall, I'm not big on working pure goldwork, although I love to add metallic touches and goldwork trims wherever possible).  I also decided which pencils I wanted to have to hand and filled up my store tubes.  Those were a really good deal - just £3 from Hobbycraft.  The RUB organisers can be bought from there too at the decent price of £18 (although I got a slightly damaged one for £12 on Amazon), but take care that you get the 0.3l boxes, not the tiny 0.16l ones.  Those tiny, dinky ones look great and now come in all sorts of fun layouts and colours, but they really don't hold anything.  The clear 0.3l or the coloured version is far better IMHO.  Of course, it depends entirely on what you want to store, but Mill Hill bead packs don't fit in and I could get next to no Kreinik spools in one too.

The basic idea of all this, apart from busting out of my old system, was to have to hand and easily visible the things that I use most or want to use more.  I've now put most of my low use sewing threads and card making trims into the blue craft tote on the floor as I don't often need them and it wasn't sensible having those so easy access. Before, many of my threads were in boxes in that blue box.  I needed to go through two or three stages to even see what I wanted, compared to a simple one stage layout now in the drawers.  I was watching a YouTube video the other day where a stitcher showed her cross stitch stash storage.  She had things in piled up boxes and bags in a chest of drawers.  There were several stages involved in getting to each item, including high demand tools and threads.  I wanted to eliminate this wherever possible and simplify the whole thing.

So the real moral of today's story is: if you're thinking about having a sort out or tidy up, take some time to really think about making it the most user friendly system for your own personal needs.

Moving on now to the very last stage of things:  the stranded cottons.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not that likely to resort my stranded cottons after all.  I think the idea I had would have worked, but I can't be sure that it would have been so much better than it is now.  Actually, the real problem is that the box containing the stranded and pearl cottons is in a different room from the rest of the collection, which is somewhat contrary to the above, no?  Rather hard to solve too, owing to space restrictions.

I have the DMC threads that I've invested in sorted into colour bags and, as you can see somewhat from the last photo, esp. the bottom row, unlike DMC, Anchor colour numbers tend to be in colour families anyway, at least from 1 to 403, which seems to be the basic colour range.  As for the others, I know where the most useful newer shades are in the numbering system and have the real thread colour chart, so I think I can manage for now this way until such time as I find myself rarely working others' designs (when I need to get threads out according to shade number), so I'll leave them as they are.  I don't mind doing the reorganising work, I just doubt it'll really be worth it.  That may mean that I use more DMC when I need to get colours out purely by shade, but that's hardly a problem!  I think I've bought all I mean to get of their collection for the time being anyway and am happy with what I've got now, esp. the greens and purples, many of which are very different indeed.

So, no more excuses now, girlie.  Back to your stitching!=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014

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