Sunday, 24 April 2011

Two finishes. Yes, TWO!

So, I really got going this week and finished two things! No, not the narrowboat - I haven't had that much stitching time.=) In fact, I've only put a little bit of water in on that, so it isn't worth showing, but as I've run out of ideas for 'information posts' for the time being and have got back into my own embroidery work somewhat (could be famous last words.....), I hope to post WIP shots more often instead.=)

The first finish was the giraffe needlepoint that I was given as a 12th birthday present by Nicholas Cook! I remember him explaining why he chose it out of the series (it was the only one with a girl's name, bless him!). I decided not to save it to complete whilst I'm away doing exam work in May, but rather to make use of mum's sewing machine those 3 weeks and get it finished up into the cushion cover I've planned. I'm going to give to a disabled girl (I say 'girl', but she's not much younger than me!!) who likes cushions on her bed. Had I given it to a little girl as I'd originally thought, she would have grown out of it in time, but Georgina won't as she will always have a mental age of around 13, so it's perfect.

As you can see, it's got a bit warped. I know that this wouldn't be a problem had I been planning to frame it as the stretching process would correct it, but I'm going to be using it in a patchwork. Any ideas on how to straighten it up a bit??

Now then, here's the finish of the month, the water violets design! I put the last stitches, the water lines, in on this early yesterday afternoon. I decided to exclude the mayfly after all. It would have looked better, more balanced with it, but I really had had enough by then and just wanted it complete. So, this is it:

This too will be made into a cushion cover and I'll do that at the same time as the giraffe. I'll need to get some backing fabric for it. Oh, the design is in the right hand half of the cushion, in case you're wondering why I was doing such a long, thin cushion.=)

I've also got re-started to some degree on the goldwork viola (don't anyone dare call it a violin!). I put the felt padding on the chinrest yesterday, but I haven't finally decided on what to overlay it with. The options are rough purl and kid leather of which I have silver and gold. I know very little about goldwork, but I have two or three useful books that can help. I'm undecided on many parts of it - what threads to use etc. Anyone with more experience care to comment? Mary? Ruth?

All the best with a dog design, Linda and, go on, start a blog! If you do that kind of work, then I want to see it!=)

© Elizabeth Braun 2010

Friday, 22 April 2011

Poor Fish!

Look at this poor chap, does he look miserable, or what?

Actually, he's not going at all how I wanted him to and so his expression reflects quite well how I feel about my work on this piece. Hmm! He's a far cry from the beauty in my header photos. Sigh! Good thing it's for someone who won't notice!!!=)

Anyway, he's not finished yet, he still needs to be filled in and a tiny fish outlined for him to be swimming after, so I hope to get a bit more done this evening etc. I will be VERY glad when this one's done and out of the way!

'lewmew': You asked about the dog design. It came from the book 'Royal School of Needlework's Embroidery Techniques'. It's quite a size and was worked in, I think, a 12" hoop. It took a LONG time, even when I was in intensive working mode and, unless you're really quite experienced in thread painting/silk shading, I wouldn't recommend tackling a project of that size and complexity. I spoke to Tracey A Franklin, the RSN graduate who stitched the model for the book, about it once and even she found it rather hard going at times! However, if you're very brave.... PS I would have left the answer to your question on your blog, if you have one, but as your profile is set to 'private', I couldn't look to see.=( It's a shame, as I always make a point of checking out my followers' blogs.=)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

From UFO to WIP to Happy Dance - How?

When I posted last week about getting WIPs finished and not going in for UFOs at all, I had some interesting responses. Some agreed and felt the same way and some had a veritable stack of UFOs, ever increasing and quite probably nattering them more than they realised. So, that got me thinking about how to get UFOs (UnFinished Objects that are not current Works in Progress (WIPs)) out, re-started and, very importantly, finished, leading to that Happy Dance! Illustrating this post you'll see two large projects that spent quite some months in the UFO state, showing where they got stuck, then a post-restart WIP shot and finally, the end result.

A good place to start is to think about exactly why that piece got laid aside indefinitely to start with. That is very important and may be quite different for each UFO you consider. The reason you gave up on it will give the key as to how to get back going on it too.

Some examples of reasons are:

1) It became boring or monotonous - a common problem with single colour backgrounds once the main picture/design is stitched in cross stitch or needlepoint pieces. It could be that it's the same technique over and over and is dull when you want more variety, or it could be that the colour(s) don't inspire. Whatever the detailed reason, boredom is the main thing. This was part of the problem with my dog thread painting.

2) You made a mistake with it, had to pull a large amount out and got disheartened. Some pieces you make a good and motivated start on only to have the wind completely knocked out of your sails by seeing all that input wasted. That happened with the hardanger piece you can see here. I miscounted in the centre, ended up having to frog about 75% of the work thus far and got fed up and put it on one side for about 7 months. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the holes where I removed threads!!

3) The project has outfaced you as it is either too large, too hard or both. This was the other half of the dog problem. Being overwhelmed by a task can be totally paralysing.

4) You just have no motivation to finish it. You may not even like the design anymore, or it may have been a class piece that you had the impetus to do whilst attending the class, but now don't feel any push to complete. Or it may be just a piece you liked, but that lacks purpose, so you feel no urgency to get on with it and other, more interesting or more appealing projects have pushed it into the UFO basket. This was also relevant to my hardanger piece as, originally, I'd intended it for someone's wedding gift, then I gaffed up and realised that I didn't feel I even liked them enough to go to all that trouble....

5) You simply have far too many things on the go at once and therefore you just can't work actively on them all. You have a dozen or so WIPs and you try to put a stitch or two in on those, but you know that several of those will have become UFOs over the next few months because you will have started a number of new things and they will push current WIPs off the production line.

Sounding familiar at all? Do you see yourself and any of your UFOs in the above scenarios? I'm sure you do. So, how do you get back going again? Well, here are some suggestions to get each category of UFO back to WIP status.

1) A boring UFO can be finished slowly and steadily by working one or two lengths of thread on it before you move on to more pleasant and interesting projects. You can also take a boring project in hand when you're watching TV (it's all tent/cross/basket stitch in one colour, so you don't need to concentrate greatly), or when you have someone to talk to. You're giving the other activity most of your attention, but your hands can be productive without you really missing the show or being too pre-occupied to be good (and polite) company. Another take on this one is to do 10 minutes on it at the start of each stitching session or a certain amount of time per week to it. Whichever works best for you, but make sure that it does work! That's why I suggest working on the boring project at the start of your session as it makes sure that it happens.

2) A disheartening project can be approached in much the same way. Take it out and do a little - paying very careful attention to how it went wrong in the first place. Work at it little and often and, who knows, once you get past the problem area, you may well find that you're enjoying it again and you can go full steam ahead.

3) Dealing with an overwhelming project can be more tricky. Generally, if it's too large, then the above mentioned 'little and often' approach will soon see it come down to a more manageable size, both in your mind and in your hands. Feeling that it's too difficult may be another matter. In this case, building confidence is key. You may need to try small sections of the piece and allow your success to build your confidence, or even leave it for the time being and work on smaller projects/samples of a similar type until you have the needed know-how to approach your more major piece with confidence. To be honest, the method I used with the dog was to simply force myself to do it. The most major spurts in progress were done on two holidays when I really only had that piece of stitching with me and plenty of time to do it, so I just pressed on with it and saw it working out fine section by section.

4) A piece that you have no reason to bother working on requires that you find one! I had nothing to finish my hardanger for, until I realised that another friend who I was happy to put in effort for was likely to get engaged within the next few months. That got me going again. So, look at your 'no umph for' UFOs and see what you could finish up for whom. Does someone who would like that piece have an event coming up? A big anniversary? A new home? Whatever else you could make it into a gift for. Another good thing about stitching for events is that it provides a deadline. "The wedding is on 12 June, so I have 6 weeks and so I'd best get right down to it!" A piece you don't really like can easily please someone else too, so this method can also take in those things you've gone off.

5) Last up is the uncontrolled project starter. The answer to this is to develop some control! If you know you are liable to get sidetracked by yet another new design, simply stop looking at them! Don't buy new kits, magazines, books etc until you've finished a certain number of things. Tell your family and stitching friends so that you can have someone to answer to and who can remind you, and even get tough with you, when needed. Look through your WIPs and UFOs and take out all those nearing completion. Finish those first and get some accomplishment under your belt. Next up get out those about half done and work on those, then move on to those which are only just started (which will be almost as good as a new start anyway). If you don't blog, start one and show off your finishes. Join in, or even start, a 'Finish What you Start' challenge and get tough with yourself. Use some of the suggestions above to keep you on track and to help in each specific case.  It won't happen overnight, and you have to be pretty determined, but it CAN be done.

If you follow some, or all, of the above suggestions, you can soon see your home become a UFO-free zone and have the pleasure of being able to use the space they're taking up for something else and give joy to friends and family as they receive beautiful, hand-made gifts from you! We can often downplay our work, but to others, it's really something. Let yourself have the opportunity of feeling a sense of accomplishment, not only in having finished things off, cleared the decks and had something to show for it, but also in having identified and met a personal challenge - seeing what prevented you from completing a task and overcoming that problem.

And then you can perform your happy dance!=)

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Stitching for Men - Part 3

OK, here we go with the third instalment of my showcase of things stitched for men. Today I'm showing the hardanger cards I've done for blokes over the years. These are all exclusively for a chap, not for a couple (as are all the items in this series.)

This last one was a fairly large scale piece mounted into a card that dozens of people signed.

Hardanger is a good, geometric technique that lends itself well to masculine sorts of things and appears to be 'technical' enough to be impressive even to our menfolk!!=)

I won't post the photos again, as they're already on show generally, but the raised work damselfly in the header was also done for a man, as was the stumpwork strawberry card and the 'tree' card you can see on the My Own Designs, Stumpwork and Masterpieces pages.

PS I've added two projects to the 'Forthcoming' page here on my blog. One is a drawing I did - so my own design this time - and it's to be done in rayon and silver goldwork threads, a heart design for a Silver Wedding card. The other is a Helen M Stevens design I've been wanting to do for years and have now thought of someone to do it for.=) The carriage returns problem seems to have resolved somewhat too - which is a great relief. Still some hitches (such as returns now going in all over the place (as usual!!) and being signed out everytime I view the blog), but more workable post-wise now.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

More narrowboat progress and help with the fish

My narrowboat is coming along nicely. As you can see from the latest pic, the boat itself is complete, as are the two darkest shades of blue in the water. So, I've been able to totally finish with a couple more colours (which feels good!!).

I decided that the fish was driving me nuts and that I was just finding it too hard, so I set out to find another suitable motif that I could put there instead. However, the only thing I could find was another little fish that didn't really fit and would probably be very little easier. What I did find though, was this piece in "Helen M Stevens' Embroidered Animals" book, which breaks down the process and helps to get it in the right order etc. Slightly contradictory in a way as, when I did the 'Ornamental Pool' design from the "Gardens" books, the instructions certainly took one through stitching the fish body before the outer trimmmings. Anyway, I'll give it a try this way and hope to get to it today, at least a little.

I've been listed quite a bit recently, which has been nice. Craft Gossip's Needlecraft blog included a link to my recent intro to stumpwork and ribbon embroidery, my stumpwork bee posting (from late 2009!) made it to a needlewrok resources blog in Turkish and someone posted a link on a French language forum here for stumpwork. So, lots of new-comers have been around of late and there are still more following those links and calling in. It's a good incentive to get on and complete WIPs, then move on to other interesting new projects!!

For those who are at all interested in our travels, the Far East and so on, I've just uploaded the final photo collection from Japan to Brauns on Tour. I'm also just about to start sorting out the Korea photos, the last things from Taiwan and then our stay in Germany and the couple of UK places we've been to since getting back, namely Durham and Edinburgh. Posts will be scheduled to appear every couple of days, if all goes according to plan!! I said IF!!!

Blogger has been having very annoying problems with hard/carriage returns. Absolutely none carry through to the actual post, so I'm having to draw on my (limited) knowledge of HTML in order to get my posts to look decent. =( Either too many lines, or none at all. I also had to manually insert the link to the travel blog. Ack! Hope they get this sorted soon, or is this a ploy to get us all onto using the new editor?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Stitching for Men - Part 2

Hello again and welcome on board for the cross stitch collection of things stitched for men! We start off with two pictures, one done as a leaving gift for a young bloke we were pally with, then a piece I did for kid bro's first flat (doubt he ever framed or used it though!!!). After that come a few bookmarks and cards. Enjoy and hope there's some useful inspiration if you're looking for an idea of what to stitch for a bloke in your life.=)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I stitched this week!

Yes! Really, I did! I've barely touched my embroideries since early/mid February, but I actually got on with the narrowboat this week and am enjoying it. I suppose if I was enjoying the others, I might get one with them too!! Still, enjoyable or not, finished they must be and so I've set myself the goal of completing the water violets and fish one within the next fortnight.

After that's done, I'll move on to getting on with the goldwork viola and have hatched a plan for moving that one forward as well. I might enjoy it better when I see progress - it was constantly fluffing one small bit and thus getting nowhere that got me annoyed with it and led to neglecting it in the first place. Once I get the WIPs done, then I can see what I want to do in future and can see myself doing more counted work for a while, but I'll take it as it comes. It's supposed to be a hobby, so when it feels like a chore, it's time to re-assess what place an activity should have in one's life. We shall see.

I don't believe in UFOs - UnFinished Objects - so I insist upon completing what I've started. There are two other thing that rather need the same treatment hanging around awaiting completion - an easy tiny cat cross stitch and a City & Guilds sample that got neglected as it was a bit long-winded. Yes, I will complete them both. I love the sense of achievement that comes from a finish - even one I haven't really enjoyed (but still feel proud of later), and also from having cleared the decks and my conscience). I know others work differently and feel differently about it, but this is how I work best and what I know I'm going to do.=) No need for 'don't do what you don't want to' comments as I DO want to, and I shall, whether or not someone else would. =)LOL! I remember one lady commenting that she'd never finished a project in her life! I am quite happily at the absolute opposite end of the scale and intend to never fail to finish a project.=)

So, that's the stitching gospel according to Lizzy Dripping (as I was rather absurdly called as a child sometimes!!). I don't mind not doing a craft or hobby for a while, or even giving one up completely, but I will not tolerate half completed things hanging around. Just ain't in my nature.

Anyway, off the soapbox and onto the current WIP:

So, it's coming along quite nicely and I seem to have finally finished about four of the colours and approx half of the main stitching. The sky is supposed to be fully cross stitched, but I'm considering just doing half stitch in one strand for it, or perhaps even cross stitch in one strand. I like the contrasting sense of depth that gives.

Hope to have some freestyle to share next week as well as more on this one!=)

I've set up a Goals 2011/2 page over on Fluffy Little Idiot, which includes all my current WIPs and a number of other things. I really find these lists helpful and motivating. I just adore crossing tasks off a 'to do' list, it gives me a real buzz, so a good, long goal list like this one is just what I need to really get productive.=) If you think it might work for you too (I know it doesn't for everyone), then why not try and set one up? You can pick any timescale you like, i.e. this year, this decade (if you're really a long-term planner) and some have picked stuff they want to achieve by a certain age - 'Before I'm 30' is popular among active young bloggers. Having a dedicated page on a blog is a real help to me too as I not only feel I'm achieving stuff, but I'm also kinda telling the world how I'm getting along with it and there's a regularly updated (each Sunday) status report for me to check back with too. If you do one, leave me the link. I'd like to see what your goals are and cheer on your progress.