Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Paradise Island - Ever deepening waters....

An update on my pretty cross stitch picture today with work done over most of the last two weeks.

As you can see in this first photo, I completed the final leaf on this side of the piece first.
After that, I spent a couple of stitching sessions on the watery deep:

And then a couple more:

Here's the overall state of progress as it stands right now, excluding the tiny bit of land and sea that I chopped off with the camera at the top right-hand side.

It's coming along nicely, although it is a bit dull just alternating between two shades of blue and nothing else.  Having said that, it works up fairly quickly as it's less bitty than some of the other parts with lots of odd stitches in plenty of different shades all in close proximity.  I want to get through most of this big blue section, which will link up with the blue above, then move on to the trees in the top left hand quarter and work across the top as much as possible.  I plan on leaving the other flowers until quite a bit later on in the project as they're the other highlight and, if I do those now, I'll just be left with the duller parts to stitch and that leaves one at risk of UFOs....  Having said that, it's hard to consider such luscious, bright blues and greens in any way dull! =)

Have you ever worked a piece like this?  Which part did you like best?

Oh, a quick PS:  There are some stash sales going on this weekend.  Sew and So are offering 10% off again until close of play on Monday 25th May (enter STITCH10 at the checkout in order to qualify, and sign up for their newsletter to be kept in the loop about further offers and discounts), and Nordic Needle in the States are giving 20% of your entire order today and tomorrow (20th & 21st May) only.  Use coupon code 2DAY20 for that offer.  I doubt I'll be taking up these offers myself as I really have way too much stash already, (and £15-20 for shipping nullifies most of the savings from NN for me here in the UK), but I thought you'd all like to know.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Stash Sunday - Anchor Pearl Cotton #12

I'm really quite a fan of Pearl Cotton #12.  I like the gauge (similar to two strands of stranded cotton), the texture and plenty more about it.  To be honest, my use of it thus far has been limited, but there have been plenty of ideas: Needlelace things in stumpwork, parts of freestyle designs that needed a little more texture than stranded cotton provides, as can just about be seen in the streambed sections of this Helen M Stevens' design I used it in back in 2008, and also fine filling stitch work for hardanger, for a start.

The only thing I didn't like about it was how few colours it came in.  The first picture above shows the entire of the original Anchor Pearl #12 collection including about a dozen colours that weren't available in the UK and I had to have shipped from Nordic Needle in the States.  No proper yellows or oranges, no browns beyond a few beige shades, no grass greens.  It was a really limited selection.  Even DMC couldn't help much.  They had some other colours available, but still no oranges, yellows etc, and a selection of only the same size.

Imagine my delight one day when browsing the Sew and So thread section I saw that the whole collection had been thoroughly re-vamped and considerably enlarged!

Of course, there were some casualties and the colours shown here in this selection of muted greens, blues, pinks and purples, along with a slightly deeper than vibrant red shade were all retired from the range.  I must remember not to use these in anything I might design for sale later on, although DMC still seem to have some comparable hues.  Shame about that red, though - Anchor shade 47, as I find it more useful than the brighter 46.
These were the first balls of the new set that I invested in.  I chose landscape colours mostly so that I could continue to use them in Helen M Stevens' style pictures, where she represents fields, water and so on in long stitches of twisted silk.  This would work well as a substitute thought I.

Of course, me being me and a complete thread-head floss fanatic, I didn't stop there and, two or three hauls later, I found myself with this as a personal collection:  

Certainly a much better selection of shades than used to be available!  There seem to be about 117 (only 40 in DMC just now) at the moment, and I don't have all of them.  There seem to be about 30 I haven't yet bought, but I'm out of space for now, although I could create it within the system I already own.  I don't want to need to look for new thread storage solutions as, much as I don't mind filling up the drawers and workbox that I have, I'm not interested in buying more.  I have a LOT of thread, and much more could get beyond ridiculous, no?  As you can see in this last shot, what I own just now fills the available space nicely, with room for two, three or four more balls at some point.

I have my Pearl Cotton #8 balls in the other cantilever section on the other side of the workbox and those could be rehoused if need be, i.e. if I ever wanted to expand this collection again.  For now though, it stays as it is.

What about you?  Have you used Pearl Cotton #12?  What for?  What other uses can you think of for it?

BTW, I won't be doing Stash Sunday posts every week!!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Leafy greens ... and oranges!

Take a look at the other end of our sofa.  I'm sitting in the bit that remains.  So much for a workroom of my own, I hardly ever actually stitch in there!!

Actually, I don't mind not having my own room anymore (I'll probably lose it when we move), as long as I can have my own desk and a decent amount of storage space.  I realised that it doesn't matter about having things all 'drawing room proper' for guests as we have them so infrequently and, as an old friend said, 'You live here, don't you?'

Back on topic.....

Here you can see the whole of my two current WIPs and what stage they're at, although we're just going to talk about the green and orange leaf on the freestyle piece today.

To be honest, the idea of getting both shades of the leaf in line bewildered me somewhat (and that's nothing compared to the butterflies later on!)  So, I decided the only way to get them in line was to draw some lines onto the fabric.  I think Trish Burr does this, so it's hardly an 'unprofessional' way to deal with the problem.  It's just that Helen M Stevens seems to have a natural flair for just getting stuff in perfect line.  OK, she stitches all day every day and has a real gift for it, but I need help!  The next few shots will show how the leaf developed and how I managed to keep it in line.

Inner section more or less in line with the drawn guide markings (above) and how I managed to adjust for deviations from the guidelines (below).  The few helper stitches I put in at this stage were done more in line with the green stitches than anything else.

Here's the main shading on the leaf complete.  Of course, there'll be a vein to add, which will bring it to life much more.  The odd thing was that, although both 'rings' were worked in one strand, the outer one appears thicker.  I suppose this is more to do with the 'geography' of the work than the fact that the green is DMC and the oranges are both Anchor.

Here's most of the piece with the newest leaf in the foreground.

The next things to do are the stems and then the rest of the plant bits - leaf veins, trims on the berries and the vine-type parts that are wrapped around the lower stems.  I hope to have that complete for the next update.
To close today, here's Sir's current WIP - his entire PhD spread across two screens!!  He's done the first draft and is now re-working the newest sections, and fine-tuning and finalising the rest.  He hopes to be in a position to submit at the end of the month.

All being well, I'll be back Sunday with my Anchor Pearl Cotton #12 collection and early next week with some WIP photos from the cross stitch piece.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Stash Sunday!

Ugh!  I've got sinusitis, so I've been sitting quietly, cross-stitching.  I'm getting along quite well with my picture (update some time next week), but I thought I'd break off to share some recent stash haul shots.

This first lot, a bumper cross stitch magazine containing all manner of lovely wildlife pictures, many of which are those glorious Anchor designs, and three offer priced packs of Mill Hill beads came from Hobbycraft a couple of weeks ago.  Those of you who live in the UK and have a Hobbycraft in reasonable distance may want to pay a visit to your local branch soon as this is a good deal on Mill Hill beads.  Some of the more expensive items (crystal treasures, economy bead packs etc) are going for £2, but regular sized ones are just £1, which is a decent price for the UK.

I inadvertently duplicated a shade as it seems I already had the red ones.  However, I thought I didn't have frosted red as I couldn't remember owning a matte red like this.

As you can see, I didn't own one!  The two production runs were quite different and even in this photo you can see the difference in sheen on the beads, no?  So, I'm keeping them both in my red bead box.

A week or so later, I took up the Sew and So newsletter 10% discount in April offer and ordered this little lot, several Anchor pearl cotton #12 shades, more Mill Hill beads, a reel of Kreinik cord and several different gauges of DMC Coton à Broder.

The coloured Coton à Broder threads are all in weight #16 and plug a few gaps in the Anchor #16 collection, (which is totally devoid of yellow-greens!).

I also treated myself to these basic shades in #20 and #30 as well as a purple Kreinik cord I bought for the sheer love of purple!! =)

As far as Pearl Cotton #12 went, I filled in a few more gaps in my collection and got a new black, as I've used quite a bit of my old one and am likely to need another at some point in the reasonably near future.

This is the whole of my recent bead haul.

I'm toying with the idea of some fruit tree designs and so I wanted some orange beads (for oranges, of course!) and also some smaller gauge ones.  Sadly, there weren't matching orange ones in the Petite range, but at least there are some dark orange ones here and I was able to get some good yellow and greens too.  The purple, again, was for the sheer pleasure of my favourite colour!

So, now Kathy's saying to herself, 'I thought she wasn't going to be buying more stuff and was cutting down?!'  And she'd be quite right in the main.  I'm not accumulating as a general rule at the mo, but I confess to being unable to resist that 10% off offer from Sew and So.  Besides, I'm not expecting to cut my stitching stash down much, if at all, although I have already divested myself of a fair quantity of books, pens/pencils/paints, make-up products and clothes, as well as used up a number of perfumes and other things.  There are still 400-500 books to go, as well as numerous magazines, tapes and much more before we move in about 3 months' time.  My original aim was to halve my personal possessions for the move and I may well succeed, or close to it. I may grab some more beads from the Hobbycraft Mill Hill offer, as £1 is a real snip, but I doubt I'll be getting much or any more stash this year, with the possible exception of a few bits and pieces at the Harrogate Show in November.  For me, it wasn't about saving money as we have no debts and I just used the money I earned in selling some of my surplus stuff to buy these, so buying something isn't a problem generally.

A later post will cover more about the Anchor #12 Pearl Cotton collection.  In the meantime, why not have a Stash Sunday yourself and share a photo or two of some new or current stash?  Not to show off or anything negative like that, but just for the fun of sharing and eye candy. =)  I love to have a nosey into others' thread collections and so I'd love to see some of yours!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Works in Progress Report

I'm not sure which piece readers are most interested to see first, so let's start with how the Paradise Island cross stitch looks these days.  I've put in another leaf, as you can see on the bottom right hand side and have started another.  I'm hoping I might get that one finished later on today, but I'll have to see how much time I have for stitchery.

The other current project is the Helen M Stevens' design, 'Painted Ladies' from her book 'Embroidered Butterflies'.  The last in progress shot I posted about this was more than 6 months ago and just featured some of the berries in the right hand cluster.  This is how far I've got up to yesterday tea time:

It's interesting to see how much the greens in this large leaf shine, which could also be because the greens in this project are DMC and that has more sheen than Anchor.  The berries are in Anchor (as are the orangey bits), but they haven't come out well in these shots.  Red is a nightmare to get clear!  I use a special camera setting for the cross stitch to get the various coral-reds to show up at all (instead of one indistinct mass).  Maybe I should try it on this piece too....  Any ideas??

I'm hoping to get the larger leaf that you can see the top of underneath the butterfly outline in the larger picture done later on today, so it's a leaf day today.

I'm not 100% satisfied with the quality of the stitching so far, but then I never am when working these designs.  Once the fine details are added, however, they look a great deal better, (cover a multitude of sins - I'd better start calling them love-stitches!!), and I always feel happy with the completed piece.  For now, I'm just pleased to be getting on with it and trying not to worry too much about unsatisfactory mid-way things.

I also need to remember to use my sellotape trick to de-lint the fabric before the next WIP photo shoot!!

I've also been doing quite a bit of Stash Enlargement of late, more on that in a later post, and also making a start on planning my entries for the Sheffield Fayre this summer.  I'm thinking of doing two pieces for the 'own design' cross stitch - one adapted from a needle-painting design in a book and the other adapted from a photo of a stumpwork floral ring, to which I plan to add some hardanger and beaded sections as they went down well last year.  Again, more on that in a forthcoming post.  For now, I've e-mailed the organisers to see if the Show Schedule is available yet.  I need to know if there's a general embroidery category again this year before I start on my piece, which I'm planning to be a Korean lady.  I want to do it during August so that it'll qualify to enter into the Leeds Flower Show in 2016 too.

The blog Instagram account is going very well indeed, attracting 67 followers in just the fortnight since I started it.  Don't forget to look me up there, if you're on IG. Find me at: @sew_in_love_blog  I check out the stream of everyone who follows me or even marks a 'like' or leaves a comment. =)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Work in Progress Wednesday - 22 April 2015

Hello everyone!

I finally managed to get in a handful of stitching sessions and here's the result.  Yes, I finished that bottom left-hand corner, a milestone I'd been wanting to reach for several months!

As you can see, the fabric has become stretched in part, but not in the corners.  That means that I'll need to damp stretch the whole piece once it's complete before I can make it into a cushion/pillow cover.  I'm hoping that, once we move, we can get a nice, new, red sofa and that this will look great against that background.

Not surprisingly, as it's been hanging around for a while, the fabric on both this and my other neglected WIP had become bitty.  So, I used a very simple technique to remove the dust and so on, which is to wrap some sellotape around my fingers with the sticky side out and to let it just roll gently over the surface.  I normally choose a relatively un-sticky type of tape for this as it's kinder to the surface and any stitches it touches.  If you have some fabric that needs de-dusting, this is a good way to do it.

Anyway, spurred on by my success so far, I'm hoping to get back into stitching things as much as I reasonably can soon and also to reinvigorate my blog.  It certainly needs it after this last six months!  With that in mind, I've started a special Instagram account for my blog, which will show various things in my embroidery world from a highlight photo from each new blog post, to stash shots, older project shots and anything that I come across that I can share quickly there.  If you're on IG and are interested in following, I'm @sew_in_love_blog
Search 'Sew in Love blog', not my name.  I do have a personal stream, but it's private, so, if you're greeted by 'This User is Private', then it's not the right one.=)  Of course, it's only just started and a photo from this post will be the third one I've uploaded on the blog's IG, but it'll soon grow.  Please also tell me if you know any good stitching streams I can follow.

You can also find me here on Pinterest.  I have 44 boards at the mo, the first nine of which are for stitchy things and arts.  Most of the others are for language learners and attract quite a following, especially the Chinese Language and Culture one, which shows me what a real demand there is for Chinese learning, and encourages me to think more seriously about writing and publishing on Kindle Direct etc.  You can also find stuff on travel - places I've been/lived, places I'd like to go; minimalism, quotes, cutes and various other interests.

Other news is that Mum has been home for the past two weeks, is still eating well and is quite perky at the moment - much more like her normal self than she has been for a while.  She's still very limited and not best pleased about it, but having realised on a big scale how much difference eating as much as she can makes, she's moving forward a little.  We hope to move back near her this summer and will be applying for housing in that area again soon.  It's not easy to get social housing these days, but we've a good reason for being there (which may help us get a higher priority level).  I'd quite like to move back into the same building we used to live in.  It's not glamorous, but it's cheap, near Mum, warm and comes without all the added privatge rental expenses of a deposit/bond, application and referencing fees and then contract renewal fees every so often - along with the danger of sudden rent hikes.  I've enjoyed having my own room, but have realised that what really matters to me is having my own table so that I don't have to keep clearing up for meals!!!  As I'm expecting to need around half the current number of bookcases we use (from 10 to 5 or 6), there should be room in the kind of place we used to live in, which would be around 55-60% of the size we currently have.  We don't really need all this space and I'd rather save £250-300 or more each month and be able to travel with it!=)

I'll leave you with a shot of the whole Paradise Island project thus far and look forward to seeing you on Instagram and Pinterest as well as trying to get back to regular update postings here.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Monday, 9 March 2015

Long Update Posting!

Well, hello there!

Long time no see, I hear you say, and you're right!  I am still alive and kicking, just dealing with a lot of stuff these days and not getting a lot of creative work done.

Having said that, here's what my cross stitch piece looks like just now.  There's not a lot of difference, just another line of mid-green underneath the left hand leaf, but at least I've done a tiny bit.  Very fractionally better than nothing, no? =)

So, what *have* I been doing if not stitching etc?  Well, we're planning to move back to Leeds to be nearer to Mum this summer, so I've been devoting pretty much all of my spare time to clearing out and cutting down on stuff.  That means everything from sorting through drawers, boxes and cupboards, through selling and donating stuff to throwing stuff out and using things up too.  I've been blogging much of the process over on my goals and lifestyle blog, Fluffy Little Idiot, where I've got recently created Use-up and Read-up lists, which are helping me to prioritise my time with a view to having less stuff to take with us.  You see, some of the things on my old goals list, including needlework things, yes, were things I wanted to do and complete, but were also things that I was planning to keep.  For instance, there was a Chinese history book in the old list's reading section, but I'm not expecting to give that book away in the short term, so I shelved that one and got on with volumes that I do want to pass on very soon.  I've also emptied out a number of boxes etc and sold some stuff already.

The most recent part of the clear up process was this third drawer of my larger set in my room:

Here it is mid-sort through and not really getting anywhere.  I was hoping to clear this out a lot and also a basket-bag which I keep my hoops, frames etc in and put what remained in this drawer, but there didn't turn out to be enough room as I really only lost two embroidery hoops - poor quality ones, two flexi-frames - in colours I didn't like and certainly wouldn't use, and a few odds and ends of paper pattern pieces and fabric scraps for the charity shop to sell to the rag merchant.

I also found a few sewing projects that need attention.

This is a cute one, isn't it?  I started this when I was about 12 and in the Girl Guides.  I didn't get on very well with it and the leaders gave me the pattern and the pieces to finish the lion off later on.  As you can see, I didn't!  However, I've decided I will soon and then I can make a gift of it to a little child.  I even have a little girl in mind already. =)

In the first drawer photo you can also see a piece of stitching I worked a few years ago and never quite finished completing up into a tiny cushion/pillow.  The story behind this one is that, a few years ago, a lady called Nicole Burgess, who was running the pearl cotton version of Six Strand Sweets, Pearl Sweets, asked me to make up a couple of models for her to put on her website.  Sadly, her enterprise never really took off and so I didn't have much impetus to put the finishing touches to this, which was just to stuff the cushion and sew up the final seam.  I came across it recently and thought that it would make a perfect engagement/wedding souvenir for an old friend who gets married in May, so I finally completed it and handed it over to her house-mate on Saturday.

Does anyone remember these fabrics?  I've been planning on making these into a case for my digital camera ever since my hubby bought it for me nearly six years ago, but got no further than roughly cutting some pieces of fabric in readiness.  I found the whole lot, including thread, a button for the fastening, some lightweight wadding and some Vilene to stiffen it in this drawer too.  So, that's something else to get done and out of the way.

This last one is the parcel I received in an exchange that was run on the long since defunct Country Bumpkin web forums.  I was living in Taiwan at the time and I think my parcel came from an American lady.  This is what she sent me (along with three skeins of co-ordinating DMC cotton, some over-dyed silk and some wooden thread holder gadgets), and I've long been intending to make it into a nice glasses case for myself.  I plan to stitch something on the evenweave fabric, embellished with the beads and make the case up with the dyed fabric as a lining and the button as a fastener.  I have no idea when that will happen, but the 'kit' is still here ready!

The idea was that we were to create a kit pack for our partner and they were to make something from it.  I sent this parcel of Oriental goodies to Dian Nunn in Australia and I wonder if she ever made anything from it??!! =)

I remember really enjoying looking for the beads and buttons in the shops, making up this parcel and photographing it.

This morning I was looking at the local Show stuff again and wondering if I would have anything worth entering.  I've really done nothing since.  Well, nothing I can enter, anyway!  Also, I don't know where we'll be living when the Sheffield Fayre is on and I'm not ready to enter the Leeds Show this year.  I have some ideas to try for the Sheffield one and I daresay I can still enter as a recent city leaver.

I really need to get on and complete the two embroidery projects that I have on hand at the mo.  It's hard to motivate yourself when you're finding one rather hard (as I always do with Helen M Stevens' designs) and the other irritatingly bitty to stitch.  Can't tolerate unfinished projects though, so completed they must be.  Recently I got quite into the Myers-Briggs personality typing stuff and found that it's part of the personality type as to whether one is results or journey oriented.  For instance, numerous stitchers have umpteen projects on the go and don't really care whether they finish them or not.  Some tell me I'm being 'hard on myself' when I, as an INFJ type, require completion of things before starting something new and feel uncomfy with part-done stuff hanging around.  They probably have a 'P' at the end of their personality types.  My 'J', however, and means being keen on lists, schedules, orderliness, results and so on (and I test very strongly 'J', apparently!).  'J' types find the 'P' type disorganised and unproductive and can't understand how they can bear it.  So, if you're a 'P', don't expect a 'J' to chill out and 'stop giving themselves such a hard time', they're happy with their method and it feels deep down good to them.  Conversely, it's no good we 'J's exhorting our 'P' friends to get on and be systematic about it and get things finished, 'cos they just don't have any sort of need to and seriously don't care about it. LOL! =)  Kind of a stitchers' live and let live!!! =)  Anyway, if you have a go at the test, let me know what type you come out as and how you feel it relates to your stitching habits and preferences.

That's all for now and I hope to have something more creative to share soon.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Welcome to the Grow Your Blog Party 2015!


Especially to everyone visiting from Vicki's Grow Your Blog Party!  My name is Elizabeth Braun (pronounced almost the same as 'Brown') and I'm from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom.  I'm 43 at the mo and have been married to my German hubby, Martin, for 16 years in June this year.  We have no kids and no pets, but plenty of cuddly toys. =)  Just now we're living in Sheffield, but will probably be moving this summer, either back to my hometown of Leeds, or somewhere else, depending on where he finds a job when he's finished his PhD.  This picture was taken when we were in Japan back in summer 2010.  I was dressed up in a kimono and had some photos taken.  (See more about that in this post.)

Although I've started a number of blogs on different topics in recent years, this one has been the one I've given the most time to and that has gained by far the biggest readership.  I began it almost 10 years ago, on 25 June 2005, as a means of documenting my completion of some overdue projects.  From there, I kept on recording the progress of my embroidery projects of many types.  Here are some of my favourite pieces from over the last decade.  Enjoy!

As you can see, embroidery is my main art form, (although I do a little knitting and paper-based art too at times) and I've done quite a number of different types over the last 12 years or so.  Things are a little slow here whilst we're dealing with a number of family and health related issues, but should get back to normal in the fullness of time.

Sorry it's a rather short intro this year and I haven't had chance to put together a give-away either! =(  If you'd like to know a bit more about little old me, then you might want to have a look at one of my other blogs, Fluffy Little Idiot, where I'm currently doing a 30 Day Blogging Challenge in which I talk about various things - interests, goals, favourites and other snippets, each day.  You might also like to stick around here for a few minutes and check out some of the past projects on the pages listed underneath the header photos.  There are also pages dedicated to links to the embroidery tutorials and feature articles that have appeared in the past.

If you'd like to subscribe to my blog, you could add me to your Feedly, click the Blogger 'Follow' thingy, (if you're on Blogger, of course), click the Bloglovin' sub box, or submit your e-mail address in the other box you'll find on the sidebar.  If you choose this latter option, remember that your subscription will not go live unless you follow the steps for verification.=)  You can also add the blog Google+ page to your circles, if you use G+.  Link, again, in the sidebar.  Many, many thanks for your visit to my blog and interest in my work.  xx  Please feel free to leave me a comment and introduce yourself, or just plain say, 'Hi' and wave in passing! =)

One blog that you won't find on the GYB list this year as the writer has been too snowed under with work to get directly involved in the event, is Rachel's Virtuosew Adventures.  Rachel is also an embroideress, who works mostly her own designs, (unlike me, as I work mostly others').  So, if you like needle arts, do check out her work too. =)

For those who are regular readers are wondering what's the why of this post, you can find out more on Vicki's blog, 2 Bags Full, (dedicated mostly to knitting and her travels).  On this post you can see the full listing of the participating blogs.

PS If you are a new blogger, you may enjoy this article I wrote last year with tips on how to create an attractive crafts blog and build up a readership.  Enjoy!

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2015