Friday, 25 November 2011

Kreinik thread gauges etc

Isn't 'gauge' an oddly spelled word?  (Aren't many English words??)  I always want to write 'guage' instead.


Sorry for the quiet spell.  I've actually had a nasty bug all month (hoping this has been my 'flu month for the winter, so I've already got it out of the way), although I was better than usual with them and was able to stitch and blog and so on.  Over the last week I've been either busy catching up with domestic stuff, being away in Wales or just plain wrecked!  However, partly thanks to Megan down under, I've put my copyright thingy-whatsit in a template so I no longer have to keep scratting around to find a © each post!!

The roses project has been taken out of the hoop, pressed and the small back flower re-drawn in and then mounted as you can see here.  I've rolled up the other part and paper clipped it out of the way (using plastic coated clips just in case of staining) as you can also see, but it won't stay like that for long, as it should be done soon.

As the fabric has a very slight give in it (NOT really the ideal embroidery canvas!) I was glad that I took it out of the hoop before I put in the spider's web!  Had I not, then the long, straight stitches would have hung loose once it was let out.  So, I'll put that in holding the whole thing semi-taut in a plastic snap frame instead.  And that brings me on to the business of thread gauges.

I decided against using the prescribed Madeira #40 thread for the simple reason that I don't own any and the nearest stockist I know of is two counties away in Ripon.  That's too far to go to see if there's any real difference between that and Kreinik Cord!  I don't want to buy in new stuff anyway, I want to use the enormous collection of threads I've amassed over the 9 years I've been stitching.  One commenter suggested using the Madeira over the Kreinik, leading me to wonder if it was commonly known how fine Kreinik 1-ply Balger Cord actually is. Now this was a very hard photo to take, so forgive the gaps and the diagonals etc, but here's a comparison of some Kreinik thread gauges.

You can see at a glance how relatively thick threads like #8 Fine Braid and #4 Very Fine Braid and/or Cable (which is 3 plies of Cord, I think) are when put alongside Cord and Blending Filament.  Bear in mind though, that this photo is showing them all larger than life and I've noticed that the Cord looks about twice as thick as it realistically should!!  For this kind of thing (the web), I prefer to use Cord as it's more 'unified' than BF, which easily separates into it's two elements - the colour and the cellophaney bit.  Anyway, Cord is very fine gauge and this shade here should knock up a fairly decent web.  I've gone for 105C, a black and silver blend.

I like the corded types of Kreinik braids as well.  Here you can see a reel of regular silver 001 Very Fine Braid alongside it's 001C, corded version.  The finish is more even and the colour is often stronger.  Some of the 002 golds look OK in their own right, so to speak, but once you compare them with 002C in the same gauge of braid, they seem  very scrappy and patchy indeed!  The photo doesn't really do the difference justice in the silver, but I only had a dog end left on my current reel of 002.

I've been working a bit more on the poppy petals and have got half way through the third one.

Gail asked what I was doing with my old needlecase after moving my everyday supply to the new hardanger one.  Well, it's still in use housing the overflow.  I still need it really, and I can't think of how better to use it and have no idea of throwing it away.=)

Finally, here's the my tool section of my main workbox, which I cleared out and tidied up yesterday.  Let me know if you want me to take out all the things and explain what they are - as best I can anyway, as I've had some a while and not really used them yet....

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Needle Painting Progress and Splog Warning!

Here's how far I got with the needle painting project by the end of the day of the last post (Monday, two days ago)

Then yesterday, whilst watching BBC's 'Land Girls' on the iPlayer, I managed to put in the main bloom

And this is how it looks right now:

I'm undecided on whether to put the spider's web in, or consider it finished here.  I'm veering towards putting it in, and I expect I'll have that sorted, one way or the other, very soon.  I think that element will balance it up nicely and my only real concern is whether or not the Kreinik cord I'm planning to use will be too thick when compared to the Madeira thread used in the book.  I'm thinking it will be OK...

So then I'll have the bloom profile to work on what will be the back of the pouch.

Changing the subject completely from the pleasant one of embroidery to the unpleasant one of copyright infringement and theft - I was splogged recently.  'What is a splog?' I hear you ask.  Apparently, that's the name given to a fake blog where the entire contents are stolen from somewhere else.  I'm not sure if they used one of those software nasties that will download your entire blog/site or hacked into my Blogger account (yes, I've changed my password!), but somewhere between the 11th and the 21st of last month, someone stole my entire blog content - 361 postings and re-published them on a fake blog template, re-arranging the order of some postings as if that, in some way, gave them a right to the copyright sign they had the nerve to put on the bottom!

How did I know this?  My blog is registered with Fairshare, which I recommend all of you do with your own blogs/sites.  They then send a notification via Google Reader for each page or excerpt that is re-published elsewhere.  Some may be perfectly legit and some even come in error (one of the RSS feeds on one of the my other blogs was flashed up once), and mercifully they only sent 39 notifications, not all 361.  Anyway, after a few reports to Google, they have removed the offending site.  At first I feared I would have to send in 361 separate reports, but I asked them if they seriously expected that and did they really want to wade through them all, and back came a confirmation that the splog had been dealt with faithfully.  And indeed it has - I checked!

Why do folk do this?  Well, search me, I wouldn't have ever considered it, but I understand some do it to pinch advertising revenue etc.  This wasn't the case with my blog as I've never allowed ads to be shown on my blog and the thief loaded it onto a template claiming to be about pressed flowers and some Fairshare reports were referring to an already deleted blog about where to stay in Paris, (which seemed familiar actually).  So, I have no idea why and when I feared having to file 361 reports, I just reported the URLs of the postings that got me the most traffic so that they at least couldn't steal my readership.

Apart from the slight flattery that my blog was considered worth nicking, (I mean, who'd want to think that their blog was passed up with, 'Who'd want to read that rubbish? Glad I didn't write it!' LOL), this is of course a case of theft and copyright violation.  I know some are, rightly, very concerned about that, considering the amount of time and work they put into their blogs, so I wanted to share my recent experience in the hope it might be useful.  I'll be adding in copyright notifications on all postings from here-on-in (if I remember each time.....)

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

A new needle painting project in progress

I actually started this one on Friday night and the first five photos were taken under the light in my study, but have surprised me by coming out quite well.  It's not a Trish Burr design, although it does look quite like her lovely pieces, it's from 'The A-Z of Thread Painting' and is called 'Spun Silk' by Australian June Godwin.  This is the photo of the piece as taken from the book.

I'm going to be making this one up into the manicure set that I originally intended a blackberries stumpwork design for and this single open rose will go on the back of it, no leaves or anything included beyond a few stitches of stalk.

This is my tracing of the design onto the cotton-based fabric.  I don't use any special methods, this was just traced directly from the pattern at the back of the book onto the fabric (which was light and fine enough to see right through without 'lightbox' style aid!) with a mechanical pencil.  I like those for tracing work as they have a lovely fine point and are not so soft that they smudge. This photo has been 'touched up' somewhat so that you can see the outline more clearly, thus the fabric appearing relatively yellow (compared to the photos below). It's antique (warm) white (DMC Blanc, Anchor #2 shade) really.

The first stitching session got as far as this

With a (larger than life) close up of the buds

Over the next couple of days I filled in the majority of the leaves

And this is where I left it when I stopped to take photos and post about it

And now, back down to it...  I'm really enjoying working this piece and I'm also, much to my surprise, enjoying working with just one strand.  I thought it would take forever - twice as many needlestrokes as with two strands etc, but I'm finding time is saved by not having to make sure the two strands lay perfectly flat next to each other and don't get crossed over each other, thus spoiling the appearance and even the sheen on the threads.  I could be a convert!

PS The stumpwork poppy is also in progress, but the needlelace petals are rather a bore to work all in one go!!  However, I have replaced that blurry side view of the beetle with a nice, clear shot and added in a view from the front too, so feel free to revisit the stumpwork beetle.=)

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Stumpwork Beetle

I completed the stumpwork beetle yesterday afternoon and, whilst I think I need more practice, I'll share with you how it was done here.  Hope you enjoy and find it at least a little interesting, and maybe even useful too!

The kit came with just an oval outline on the fabric.  The first thing to do then, was to pad the outline with felt.  There was no pattern given for it, so I just guess-timated and then trimmed to size.  Then you stab stitch it in place.  No need for lots of stitches, just a few are OK.  You could even just put a few stitches in the centre of the felt and that would be fine too, but I prefer to have the edges secured so they don't get in my way when I'm working the next part.

The next step is to work satin stitches all across the body, completely covering the felt shape.  Here you can see me working with three strands instead of the prescribed two again.  No need to worry about covering outlines here, but it both saved needlestrokes and may even add to the height of the whole element.

The next photo shows the next two stages.  First, five stitches were made from 'toe to head', fanning out at the bottom, but going into the same hole at the head.  It's rather hard to photograph well, both lines of stitching being black, but I think you can just make it out here.  After that, re-thread the needle with two strands of metallic green floss and put a few satin stitches over the front to form a head.

Next we move on the green wings and, as you can see in this shot, the satin stitches are worked from top to bottom, along the diagonal line formed by the five black stitches.  You need to close them up slightly at the head end to both fit them all on and to stop them slipping off the side of the body.

Here you can see the completed satin stitches.

The next element is the legs and antennae.  These were worked in just one strand of black stranded cotton and done in straight stitches and detached chain (lazy daisy), thus making the 'double' look of the first section of each leg.  The antennae, of course, are just one straight stitch each coming out from the front of head (where else???!)

Finally, just stitch the eyes, two blue- or green-black seed beads, on to the front of the head and here he is, your stumpwork beetle!

I do apologise for the slightly blurry quality of one or two of the photos, but he's quite a simple little fellow and I'm sure you can find the materials for him easily, if not from the stash you already have.  The green thread is the dark green one from the DMC Light Effects range and I daresay Kreinik will also have something that answers.

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Flatwork on the DMC Poppy and Beetle Kit

I decided to make a start today on the small stumpwork kit I posted in my last.  It's one of the six kits that DMC used to make, but has long been off the market.  I bought five of them, two of which came from a discount seller on e-bay who'd clearly got hold of a lot of end of line kits to sell on.  They do still crop up on e-bay from time to time, for anyone whose interested.

I like kits as a general rule and feel a good deal more relaxed when working one than I do when working my own design.  It's the security of having full instructions, and even some illustrations, that makes the difference, I think.  There are kits and kits though, and this is definitely of the mass produced, cheap and (usually) cheerful type.  The things I dislike most are the thin, cheap looking pieces of calico you're given to work your piece on and the fact that pattern lines are printed so thickly onto it.  I decided to work the stem stitch part in three strands as opposed to the recommended two just so as to have some hope of full coverage!  It didn't quite work, but it's near enough for what I'm thinking of as more or less a practice/learning piece.

The large leaf presented a slight challenge in that you're expected to stitch at an angle.  As you can see here, I drew in the centre vein and some angle stitch guidelines to help.  Outlining in stem stitch wasn't part of the instructions, but I feel that doing this both helps make sure you cover the printed lines and also raises the edge of the stitches somewhat.

The bud was a point of interest too.  I felt that the way it was done on the model in the photo looked rather bad, to say nothing of probably not very lifelike, so I changed it.  Here you can see the process of doing one part, the under sepal, in one layer of satin stitch, part of which provided padding for the top layer.  I'm not sure I'm wholly impressed with the final result of it. In fact, I'm wondering if it's any better than the original!  Still, this is a learning process....

Here's the status at the moment of the whole piece with all the flatwork completed.  It didn't take very long to do, especially as there's just one large leaf as opposed to the several small ones on the last DMC kit I worked. If all goes according to plan, tomorrow I hope to get to the green and black beetle and, if possible, make a start on the detached poppy petals.  See you then!

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Monday, 7 November 2011

Some needling problems

And that's not all meant as a pun.  (Which bit is, you'd best decide for yourself!)

I've had this old needlecase for a few years.  I actually made it myself when I was in primary school class 3 at the tender age of around 7, so 1978/9.  I even remember being disappointed when I went wrong on the dark green/peach line, but it was rather a complex stitch for a tiny tot to do, no?  Well, my mum used it for years and then washed it out and gave it to me when I made her a new one back in about 2005/6.

You can see how untidy it'd got inside as well.  Bits of thread hanging around, flannel insert all rusted, needles all over the place in not much order, except that most of the top right section was blunts - tapestry needles.

Whilst we were in Taiwan I worked a nice new one in a hardanger design.  I'd done an identical one in pink (which, OK, means it wasn't really identical.....) and gave it to my mother-in-law, and that after promising myself I was going to work that needlecase and NOT give it away.  I felt sorry for her as she'd had a rough time of it just previously, so I thought I'd give her the choice of colour and have the other one myself.  5 years later and it's been made up and waiting for needles for about the past 18 months.  So, last night I finally got around to populating it.

On the top left hand side we have tapestry needles in sizes 20, 22, 24, 26 and tiny 28s.  Under that come crewel/embroidery needles in sizes 10, 9, 7 (which is my preferred size - not too fiddly to work with), 5 and a couple of 3s.

Moving on to the right hand side and, from the top, three beading needles, 4 straw/milliners ones in sizes 3, 5, 7 and 9, then two other large needles that I don't really know what to call, followed by chenilles in sizes 18, 20, 22 and 24, then a few general sharps for sewing.

So, now I just have to get used to the sight of my new needlecase.  At least it's still green!

I've been thinking about the berries design and the problems associated with it.  First of all, the silk (backed with interfacing) feels very stiff and rather like paper.  Not nice to work on.  And, as I had it out of the frame for a while, there are nasty buckles in it, which just won't do.  You can see a bit of how it's got spoiled here.

Also, to be honest, I'm not that pleased with the design.  It's all over the place with no real sense of balance and I just can't find any enthusiasm to work it.  I started on the monogram a few weeks ago but, as the letters are half the dimensions of the ones I took the design from (Susan O'Connor's book), they really are too small to do properly and, when I tried, they just looked so scrappy that I would have done better when I was seven!  If not, then at least there would have been that as an excuse.  So, with all that in mind and the fact that silk on silk was really not at all practical for an everyday manicure set, (I mean, we're talking about a normal, modern woman here, not Lady Mary Crawley!!), I decided to take the piece out of the frame and take the whole thing back to the drawing board.  Perhaps a larger monogram with the berries around it??  I'll see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, I went through my kit box and fished these two out.

I could wish that, when kit makers were putting these things together, they'd spare some thought on how well the colours in the design go with the fabric they provide.  It always seems to be a cream colour that gets used (and the piece in the Brazilian kits is rather rough and rigid as well), but it seems to me that these purple roses and the light, blue-ish greens that are with them would be much better suited to white.  I laid the threads against three fabrics for comparison.  The first from the left is white (cool), then an antique white (neutral) piece, then the cream (warm) from the kit.  I know it doesn't show up as well as it could here (the original fabric is a bit yellower in reality), but the cool shades match the white so much better.  Colour is very important to me and I can't feel comfy with 'it looks OK' when it can look better!  Perfectionist?  Well, perhaps.  In some things anyway.  A pass grade won't do for me when a distinction is available.;)

I haven't started either yet, and I also want to have a go at a berry or two, so I can't say for sure what's coming next, but something will.  Soon....

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Sunday, 6 November 2011

What makes a great needlework blog?

Thanks very much indeed to the 15 ladies who kindly took the time to leave their comments on yesterday's survey posting.  What struck me as the bottom line as to what you regular readers think is that you like what you see, you just want a good deal more of it!  Photos, commentary, design notes (where relevant), some background and cultural articles and tutorials, but especially more photos.  Well, I shall do my best to oblige and I hope you're enjoying the photos of my latest finish alongside this post.  Look!  Three instead of the usual one!=)  I think photos can be overdone, so maybe I won't post as many as some do (I realised I need to get a good balance between what readers like and my own tastes and preferences), but I like the idea of some close-up shots as well as some angle shots.  I've done both before, but I think I'll try to make more of a habit of it.

I've switched to the newer Blogger post editor as that allows more freedom with photo sizing, so that should help with the problem I mentioned yesterday.  Failing that, two of you mentioned a third party service that I could try out, but I think this is working so far.

I've also made some changes on the blog layout and appearance, mostly to simplify.  In my opinion, there are some great and skilled needleworkers out there whose work is all but lost against the high impact graphics and multi-coloured layout of their blog template and sidebar content.  Even the post text can be in so many colours that the eye doesn't naturally settle on the photos of their beautiful work!  So, to my mind, a great needlework blog is first and foremost simple and uncluttered.  It has a plain, either very light or very dark background, perhaps with a simple border if liked, and keeps the visual focus on the photos in the main posts.  It's also free of mouse pointer graphics, things drifting across the screen and little tinkling sounds, and no music starts up when you land on the homepage.  Great content needs no gimmicks.=)

I also feel strongly that the sidebar should be a reasonable length - preferably shorter than the space needed to display the number of posts you've selected per page.  To keep the whole layout easy on the eye, sidebars are best kept to one and only in single columns.  There are all sorts of multiple column layouts available, but I recommend avoiding these and going for just one.  I personally much prefer not to have a long list of blog feeds on my blog sidebar (you can see which blogs I follow by looking at my Blogger profile), as it can get to a great length and can add too many distractions.  To be honest, I also would hate to cause offence by omitting anyone's blog....LOL!

Another common problem with blog layouts can be the header design.  Some are just so big that they require you to scroll horizontally to see the full thing and others are so long that you have to scroll quite a way down to get to the start of the blog proper!  So, I also recommend keeping the header section a reasonable size.

Oh yes, and I think that proof-reading and carefully previewing and amending layouts is vital too (this post is taking ages to get 'just so'!!).  Mistakes, gaping bare spaces and other gaffs are distracting and unprofessional, so spell-check, proof-read and adjust!  (Now watch there be an awful blunder somewhere, like once on my travel blog when I missed the 'r' out of 't-shirts'!)  And text is best left- or fully justified.  No-one right justifies, but there are some where all text is centred and it can make it harder to read, so I recommend that only if needed for a photo caption/section heading or something like that.  A great needlework blog is always easy to read and easy on the eye without irritations, don't you think?

So, I now have a white background, (although my backgrounds have always been light and contrast reasonably good), and the text, apart from links, is all black and dark grey.  Links are a petrel blue and I've changed the title font and colour too.  I also thought I'd see how I liked the photo borders (thanks for the idea, Leftsox).  The sidebar has lost about 3 of its elements so far and others have been condensed: I changed the labels list to a cloud, removed the numbers and only chose to show the textiles related ones; my other blogs have been cut down to just title and photo; and the Blog Archive has been changed to a drop down list. I also moved the blog navigation elements up to the top and added a copyright line at the bottom.  Two of the pages have also gone and I've added to what remains (some of which has been shifted around and renamed) there by putting in the photos that used to be in the sidebar gallery.  Hope to improve them soon with more text.

Tutorials are an interesting idea.  I do plan to do a few more, but I daresay there won't be a huge quantity of them as I don't feel as skilled and qualified as some seem to think I am!  Still, one can but have a go.  One e-mailed comment suggested that I might want to try plugging the gap between the 'doodle stitching for beginners' tutorials that abound and the very advanced, verging on professional level of instruction that the very serious hobbyists post, but which may be above the confidence and commitment level of some.  I like that idea, and am open to suggestions!  Caroline, you read my mind in suggesting the dragonfly as a possible tute!  I had that sort of thing in mind to try more of and to show how to do it.  It was a steep learning curve producing that baby though, so I need some time...

A few ladies expressed and interest in seeing and learning more about the Taiwanese and Korean pieces that I photographed in East Asia last year.  Great, yup, I'll have a stab at that, but be warned - I am NO expert and the info I provide alongside will be of the the simplest kind.  It would be a interesting diversion from the better known Japanese and Chinese work though, so I think it's worth doing and, yes, I'll do a little research as well.

I finally finished the narrowboat yesterday afternoon after deciding that the top stitching on the water looked tacky and that the greenery didn't need any more detail.  I also elected to use the prescribed three strands for the French knots on the boat (the flower pots on its roof), but to drop to just two for the flowers on the right hand side in the hedge area.  I felt that this would, along with a half stitch background instead of the full stitches suggested in the pattern, create an impression of texture and depth.  I appear to have started this one about 17 months before it was finished, so that was a LONG time, for a medium sized cross stitch.

Don't know if anyone remembers this photo from a post just under a year ago entitled 'Too Many WIPs'?  I had these four skeletons of pieces all laid out on our ironing board!  Well, I've now managed to flesh out and complete three of those projects (as well as a number of smalls and three childhood UFOs posted over the summer), and so now it's onto the stumpwork berries piece.  Working the beaded berries will be a new one on me, so I hope to get a grip on that and then post a simple tutorial so you can have a go too.  Sounding good?  Will be back soon, have a great Sunday.=)

© Elizabeth Braun 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Reader Survey

Dear Readers,

Hi! It's a dull and slightly misty Saturday morning here on the very southern tip of Yorkshire and I've been thinking about my blog - what I want to do with it and how to take it forward. All good magazines do a periodic reader survey to make sure that they meet the needs and wants of their readership, so I thought I'd try the same. Success depends upon response, so do click through from your reader screen etc and tell me what you think!

I've noticed that some of the most popular blogs, Needle'n'thread and The Unbroken Thread feature lots of photos of various aspects of their work - different angles, close-ups of certain elements etc, and that's something I want to do more of. I'm limited by the sizes that Blogger allow for photos and, whilst you can alter them on the 'Edit HTML' tag, I find that most of the time I try to increase the size (and, yes, the original is big enough), the photo blurs. However, one can keep trying!! It has worked on some, but is particularly unhelpful on evenweave fabrics. If anyone has any ideas on how to overcome this problem, I'd be most interested!

Something else that the very popular sites do is concept posts - articles etc about embroidery, book reviews and different local styles as well as aspects of technique, so that's something else I can give some thought and time to. I'm not as dedicated a stitcher as some are, but I do have, for example, a decent collection of photos of Korean and Taiwanese embroideries that I can share and write a little about. Thread storage is another, ditto needles.

So, what do you think? What would you enjoy? What, in your opinion, makes a stitching blog really stand out from the crowd? Please take 1 or 2 minutes out of your busy day to leave a comment (in any language - I can always use Google Translate to help!) and tell me!=) THANKS!

© Elizabeth Braun 2011