Thursday, 31 October 2013

Completed sampler photos!

Well, this is it, the finished thing.  It's not mounted/stretched yet as I don't have the necessary size of board in stock, but I gave it a press the other day and took some shots anyway or else I may have had to keep you waiting ad infinitum!

I started to blog about this piece on 9 April 2012, so I will have started to stitch it around the 7th.  It was finished on 21 October 2013 meaning that it took about 18 months to complete.  However, that's a bit misleading as I didn't work on it actively for about half of that time, so it was more like a 9 month project in reality.  It was rather challenging in parts and I learned some new things and simplified others so that I didn't have to learn too much new stuff!  Hope you enjoyed it all anyway.=)

Now, time for something new.....

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday - 30 Oct 2013

No more WIP shots to share on this first piece, as I finished it last night!

So, here it is in its almost final glory.  I say 'almost' as these designs are meant to have novelty buttons attached to them, but as I've been selling them complete with the buttons and two out of the four really didn't appeal to me anyway, I decided to explore the 'Button Lady's Ooh-Aah Stand' at the Knitting and Stitching Show in a few weeks' time!  I'm sure I'll find something there that will do and there's really only one of the designs that needs the buttons and that's the 'Spring' one that had the greenery and pot stitched, but the flowers to add.  We'll see what I can find.

In the meantime, 'Autumn' is already in the working frame and should be done fairly soon.  Then this series will be done and ready for framing all in one go.=)

As you can see, I changed the colours for the lettering at the bottom from red, white and blue to two shades of green and a red.  I wanted to use GAST 'Royal Purple' for the lettering itself, but had to admit that red balanced the whole piece much better than the dark purple would have done.

I fished out the old peacock feather the other day and, although I haven't done any of it yet, that's now back on my table ready to get back into commission.  I'm longing to get this one done and off my list.

It isn't really for anyone or anything, it's just that I want to finish it.  I've put in all this work so far and I want to see it completed.  It'll just go in my portfolio with the rest of my C&G samples.

I have dumped two projects in the past that I changed my mind about, but I don't hold with having UFOs.  I don't like half-read books either and finished off quite a number that got started and then neglected over the past 2 or 3 years.  Feels good!=)

Although it isn't mounted/stretched yet, I pressed the sampler today and took some photos, so look out for those over the next day or two and some progress shots (I hope!) on the feather next week.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The courage to be bad - introducing Art Every Day Month

Do you remember the 1980s TV series 'Fame'?  I love it!  In series 1, episode 4 - 'Alone in the Crowd,' we see the school's musical genius struggling to deal with stage fright and being unable to perform owing to fear of a bad reaction.  Towards the end and after having proved to young Bruno that he won't die even if he does get boo-ed, the music teacher, one Mr Shorofsky, says, "You don't get applause unless you grow.  And you don't grow unless you are courageous enough to be bad."  This really struck a cord with me.

You see, it's the same with other forms of art.  We don't grow, develop and improve if we're so afraid of making mistakes that we don't do anything!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I get a bit paralysed when I'm faced with something I find difficult or that I'm not sure I can do well.  That's why I'm pleased that Art Every Day Month is about to start.

Art Every Day Month is co-ordinated by Leah Piken Kolidas, the same lady who runs the Creative Every Day annual challenge.  AEDM is like a miniature version of CED that runs each year in November and it's not just about paint and paper art.  She says:
I define art in the broadest sense. Your daily art might be a painting, or the beginning of one, or it might be a photo, a song, knitting, cooking, chalk drawings with your children, sculpture, poems on napkins, art journaling, crafting, dancing, etc...
So, whatever art means to you, qualifies for the challenge.  Why not join in?
Here are some ideas I had that one could spend a month exploring:

* The four seasons - winter, spring, summer and autumn, or just one of these.
* A stitching style - goldwork, stumpwork, blackwork, crewel
* A yarncraft - learn crochet, try a new knitting stitch each day
* A regional style such as hardanger embroidery, Japanese embroidery, Brazilian work, or even designs inspired by a certain country or even their script - endless ideas in Chinese characters!!

And so on.  There's also paper, pencil and paint-based art and that's something I've really been wanting to improve my meagre skills in for some time.  It's also something that I can really use Mr Shorofsky's wisdom on.  You see, like many people, I'll never improve in my skills and grow as an artist if I don't have the courage to be bad.  The courage to make mistakes.  The courage to 'waste paint and spoil paper' as one of the characters in my favourite Victorian novel, 'The Woman in White' says.  To take the risk of trying something that may not work out as I'd hoped and even look awful!

BUT: It may even look good, or maybe would be better if I tried it like this instead of like that.... However, this can only happen if one has the courage to risk being 'bad' and have a go.

So, what do you think?  Could you too have 'the courage to be bad' and to grow during November and join in the Art Every Day Month challenge next month?  It's a low pressure challenge and there are no forfeits for missing a day. Leah's realistic enough to acknowledge that life rarely goes as planned and that people have more pressing responsibilities than keeping up to a creative challenge.  However, it may give the impetus to have a go.  It will me and I'll be blogging my multiplicity of bad drawings, hopefully including a few passable ones, over on my Art blog.

Here are the latest cross stitch progress photos.  Only the sunflowers, the 'Summer' logo at the bottom and a little bit of top-stitching to be done now and I can get that chart sold and start on 'Autumn'.  Basically, I want to get these two stitched up and finished so that I can sell them in time to have the cash available to spend at the Harrogate Show in 4 weeks' time!!  There isn't really much that I plan to get, but I'd like to have the option to get anything I like the look of, if you see what I mean.=)

Coming back to the list of things that one could spend a month on, I'm thinking of opening up my own challenge during 2014 using topics like these.  Participants would spend a month developing ideas and/or skills in each of 12 areas of textiles and embroidery and then share the results with others.  Does that sound like something you might be interested in?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Belated Work in Progress Weds Post - 24 Oct 2013

Yippee!  The last Work In Progress Wednesdays posting I will ever need to do on this piece!  Yes, it's finished and I am THRILLED to have got through to the end of it.  It took over 18 months, although there were two long periods when I didn't work on it, but even so, it was a long project and it feels great to have it all completed at long last!=)

Above you can see the side trellis areas cut and below shows them all filled in.  I confess to having departed from the pattern here as, although the main trellis stitch wasn't hard to work, the length of the bars required working a sort of half stitch at the top and that led to my having trouble attaching it securely to the top section without pulling the stitches down badly.  I realised later that I could have done that OK by actually putting the threads through one of the fabric holes underneath the satin stitches but, a) it's too late now; and b) who knows if it would actually have worked that way either??=)

Above here is the bottom right hand section and below the bottom left showing the completed beading and the large X shapes that the side trellises would otherwise have been worked in - I managed them fine here.

Here's the gate area all cut out above and, below, you can see the first parts of it complete, although I did take that top left part out and did it again later on.  I was just taking all the shots I could up until we left for London on Monday morning.

Later on that day I finished it off in the Travelodge room and then took it out of the frame and took it to show show Sharon Boggon, who I met in person in London on Tuesday for afternoon tea!  Sir and I had an interesting few hours' chat with Sharon and her hubby, Jerry.  We learnt quite a lot about aspects of life in Australia - something we rarely have chance to find out about here.  One sees plenty of US related things and we have experience of life in continental Europe and the Far East, but Aus was a relatively new subject for us, so it was great to hear more.  I came away feeling that I understood another view of life so much better and had really learned something worthwhile!  Sharon and I also compared notes on our stash and how Brits, Americans and Aussies approach stitching materials and stash collection, whilst our blokes discussed PhDs, academia and joinery.=) Here are Sharon and I together with the finished sampler:

I consider this piece to be a tribute to the effectiveness of the Work in Progress Wednesdays idea!  I've finished three projects over the last year thanks to the weekly update deadline - this one, the Brazilian 'Rolled Roses' piece and the stumpwork rabbit (this last also spurred on by Anna Scott's 'Finished in February' event earlier this year), and have one left to go now - the peacock feather.  After that, I'll have to start something new in order to keep on joining in!

"Where are the finished samplers photos?" I hear you cry!  Well, I haven't taken then yet.  I want to get the piece properly pressed and then stretched around a mounting board ready to take to the framer and will take a good number of shots then.  Can't promise when just yet, but it will be soon, that's for sure.  At the mo, it's a crumpled mess that needs a bit of TLC before being fit to be seen.

On Saturday, I'll be updating you on the cross stitch piece and introducing you to 'Art Every Day Month', which I hope some of you will be inspired to join in.  Until then!=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Stitching and Threads

This part of my Lizzie*Kate Summer Button-Up cross stitch is cute, isn't it?  I love this bottom corner with the lil' kitty peeping out.  It's only very simple, but it works well, I think.=)

This is how far I've got with the whole piece.  Not too far off completion, probably at about 65-70%.

I was working on the red border at the bottom and wondering why red, white and blue had been chosen for summer, and then it dawned on me - of course, 4th of July colours!  Well, that doesn't work for me either by nationality or the fact that I'm not patriotic at all, so I decided to leave that bit unfinished for now and, once the rest is done, I'd see about picking some more summery shades that co-ordinate well with the whole piece.  Also, the 'Spring' pattern has lettering in blue, so I want this one to be different.

It's been another good stash week as the day I put in the order for the #12 pearl cottons I showcased recently, I also ordered a few more Pipers Silks to a) plug the gaps in my collection colour-wise, and b) to fill my box.  This is what I enjoyed receiving on Thursday - 16 beautiful, gleaming cops of silk floss.

Below are the sections of the newly filled box just sitting on my desk, waiting to be put to good use in a project or four.

The 'Yellows' tray, photographed at this unusual angle as it produced the best distinction between the yellow shades.  Clockwise from top-left: oranges and peaches, warm yellows, cool yellows, warm browns, cool browns, and black, white and greys.

The 'Reds' tray contains, again clockwise from the top-left: purple pinks, red purples, blue purples, bright reds, dark reds, and red pinks.

The 'Blues' tray features: yellow greens, bright greens, blue greens, green/aqua blues, cool blues and black/white in narrower gauges.  If I get any more greys at some point, I'll move the regular black and white down here too.

If anyone would like any more information on the silks, or any of the colours etc, feel free to ask.  In the meantime, I need to think of something to use them in, right?=)

Sadly, I doubt I'll get my sampler done as planned as I'm rather out of action this weekend, down with something and just taking a few minutes out of bed now to do a few on-line things.  I want to get as much rest as I can so that I can go to London etc as planned on Monday - I do NOT intend to miss that trip!  It does mean not much, if any stitching will happen over the weekend, although I've made good progress since Wednesday's posting, so there'll be something to show whatever.  And you never know, I might feel up to more later on in the day...

Have a good w/e and I'll head back bedwards with some fun children's detective stories to amuse me and thoughts of all the art and stitchy projects I have in mind for the next few months.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday - 16 Oct 2013

Almost there!  As you can see, I've simplified the top section quite a bit, but I think there's enough going on up there for no-one to feel there's any lack.  Maybe it would've looked better with all the filling stitches put in, but, to be honest, it was getting a bit much learning so many new things on one piece.  I like to have some challenge and to learn a new technique during most of my pieces, but to have so much new stuff to assimilate all in a row was really getting to me and scaring me off.

This row of three squares contains a few new things for me.  I did the outer two as per the pattern, but the central one I chickened out and simplified!!

And here's the top half completed!

So, if you'll excuse me, I've no time to talk today, I must get straight on with cutting out the long border trellis sections.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

I'm in the finals!

Vote for me for Craftsy's blogger awards!

YAY!  I made it to the finals of the Craftsy Blogger Awards!  So very many thanks to all my kind readers who nominated me in the Embroidery: Best Photography category!=)  I was quite surprised actually, as I expected that, if I came up in the finalists list at all, it would be for tutorials, but it seems that my photography has proved the biggest pull for readers.  On mature reflection, I was also quite glad it turned out this way as Needle'N'Thread and Pintangle are in the Best Tutorials category and, well, I would never expect to stand a chance against the likes of them! =)

So, please add your vote to those that are accumulating over on the Craftsy blog by clicking on the graphic above.  Of course, much as I'd like to win, I want to do so honestly so please only vote for me if you think I deserve to win.  So far as I can make out this category is, basically, for the best embroidery photography so, if you think I post that, click on the vote under my blog logo!  I would be very pleased to have your votes and, again, many, MANY thanks to all who've nominated me (in either category) and I hope that you'll continue to enjoy my blog for years to come.  

Whether or not I win, I pledge to keep on posting the best quality content that I can and provide readers with a site that is worthy of recommendation.  That's what really matters, no?  (Oh go on, vote for me anyway!!!LOL!)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

One or two small changes on the site

Hi everyone!  Just wanted to let you know of a couple of minor changes on the blog that should help to make popular content easier to find.

I've removed the majority of the items on the 'Click to see...' list in the sidebar and put them onto dedicated blog pages instead.  So, now when someone lands on the blog homepage, s/he can easily see a link to tutorials and features without needing to scroll down the page.

On the Tutorials page are all the tutes I've published to date (and will be adding to in the future), with a photo, title and a link to the relevant post.  They're arranged in subject order, with areas such as 'Stumpwork and 3D stitches' and 'Finishing and Framing' covered, so it should be quite easy to find what you're looking for.

The Features page is similar, only these are photo articles on various topics from regional costume and/or embroidery styles to some ideas on how to get your stalled projects going again and finished.

I hope this new format is useful for you!=)

As you can see from the first screenshot, I've also changed one of the header photos.  I was never satisfied with the quality of the rosehips shot, so have changed it for part of the surface work on the stumpwork dragonfly piece I worked earlier this year.  It's a shame that three of the five pictures are florals, but I wanted to keep as many styles as possible in the header, so we have the goldwork viola, some ribbonwork flowers, a wired poppy (which, now I come to think of it, I could change for the butterfly or the rabbit....), a cross stitched planet Earth and now the flatwork flowers with beaded centres.  Well, almost flatwork as the petals are actually padded satin stitch.  Anyway, several different styles of work which, I hope gives an appropriate introduction to what I do here.

That's all for now.  Hope to talk again on Wednesday.=)

P.S. Poppy photo changed for the stumpwork rabbit. ->

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tutorial - Raised needlelace strawberry (stumpwork)

Would you like to stitch a lovely raised strawberry on one of your pieces?  Perhaps to decorate a section of crazy quilt?  Or as a special motif in a sampler?  Today's tutorial will guide you through the process step by step.

There are several ways of producing a stumpwork strawberry.  This needlelace version was the one I learned via a Royal School of Needlework kit a few years ago and is one of the simplest.  You probably already have all the things you need in stock.

These are the materials you need to hand: Your fabric mounted in your choice of work frame, (here, a 5" hoop), some red felt, red and green embroidery threads, some red sewing cotton, some gold or yellow contrast thread for the seeds, a crewel embroidery needle, a tapestry needle and a couple of pins.  You'll also need a little bit of paper or tracing paper.

Stage one is to draw out the shape of the strawberry on some tracing paper or, if you prefer, some bondable paper.  Here you can see two of different sizes so that the shape is raised up gradually.  The inclusion of my index finger gives a clue as to scale, but you can use whatever size you need for your piece.  Generally speaking, the larger the finished berry is to be be, the more layers of padding you'll need in order to get a good raised shape.

After you've cut out your strawberry shapes from the paper, just pin them onto the red felt and cut around them.  Stumpwork isn't a very exact science, so you won't need to be too precise, but if you prefer to be, then by all means use bondable paper and cut around the shape that way (in the Jane Nicholas style).

This tutorial concentrates mainly on the larger size of strawberry, so there will be two layers.  Using the crewel embroidery needle (I used a no. 7) stab stitch the felt shape into place using red sewing thread.  If at all possible, find a close match to your chosen thread as some tiny specks may otherwise show through and spoil the effect (unless that's the effect you want).

One layer in place (above).

Here (above) you can see both layers stitched into place - the larger covering the smaller, giving a nice, raised bump.  Below is the view from the back of the work.

Now that the padding is securely in place, it's time to think about which needlelace stitch is best to use.  My choice for this berry would be corded single brussels stitch, also known as corded detached buttonhole stitch.  The corded version produces a denser effect than the non-corded one that I've used in things like wired insect wings and so gives better coverage.  This is especially important if you weren't able to find a matching colour of padding.

This picture is from Kay Dennis' 'Beginners Guide to Stumpwork' published by Search Press.

In order to make needlelace, you first need to work a row of backstitch all the way around the outside of your berry shape in your choice of red thread.  In this example, I'm using Anchor #8 pearl cotton in colour 47, a slightly dark red. You could also use stranded cotton in plain or variegated shades, but I prefer pearl cotton for needlelace as there is only one strand to work with and that reduces risk of getting the needle caught in more than one strand.  #12 pearl cotton is another possibility.

When that is complete, bring the needle through at the top left and then change to the tapestry needle which is less likely to catch in the felt or stab your finger!  Begin to work a buttonhole/blanket stitch taking the needle through the top back stitch but NOT through the fabric.  Needlelace is all worked on the surface.  This part can be a little tricky as you will need to make double sure not to catch your needle in the felt and, as you are working slightly uphill, that can be quite hard.

When the first row is complete, pass the needle under the back stitch at the side of the berry.  (I apologise for the poor quality of this photo!)

This is the 'corded' part: Take a line straight back to the left hand side, again passing the needle under the stitch at the side.

Begin now to work your second row of buttonhole stitches taking the needle under both the stitch in the previous row and the cord.  Over the next couple of rows you will probably need to increase the number of stitches in each row in order to get good coverage.  Simply work more than one into a few of the stitches on the previous row, spacing the double stitches out nicely.  To reduce, just do the opposite - miss out a few stitches and just work, say, 5 stitches into 6 or 7 on the previous row.

Each time you take a new trip across the berry, you'll need to make sure that you have enough thread to complete the row.  However, you're almost certainly going to run out at some point.  just pass the needle through to the back of the work and fasten off.  Bring up a new thread in the same place and carry on as before.

Fill up the whole berry with needlelace and, when it's finished, just take the needle to the back again (you may well want to swap back to your crewel needle as it's sharper) and fasten off.

Here, I threaded my crewel needle with some of the Kreinik cord 104C and made some French knots on the surface of the berry to look like the seeds.  You can also use small straight stitches or any other technique that you think will produce the effect you want.

Moving on to the small leaves (sepals??) at the top of the berry and I'm going to create those using open based woven picots.  For this you need one of your pins again.  Insert it into the fabric above the berry and bring it out again as near to the berry as you can.  This is quite fiddly as, again, you're having to work uphill and you don't want the pin pulling at and spoiling your needlelace.

Fasten on your green thread at the back.  Again, I've used Anchor #8 pearl cotton, this time in shade 266.  Bring it out to the right of the pin as near to the berry as you can.  Pass the thread around the top of the pin, then take it back through the fabric to the left of the pin as near as possible to the berry.  This is the final size and approximate shape of your sepal.

Bring the thread back to the front of the work directly to the right of the pin and take it up around the head of the pin again, crossing over and going from left to right.  This is another good time to change to a tapestry needle.

Begin the needle weaving as shown, first going over the outer threads and under the central one.

From the other side, weave back the other way this time going under the outer threads and under the inner one.  Don't pull too tight or you'll lose the shape of your picot and it'll end up being over narrow.

Continue weaving and, every couple of rows, stop and push the rows towards the top of the pin so that you can fit as many rows as possible into the picot.

When the picot is finished, change back to the crewel needle and take the thread through to the back.

Bring the thread to the front again just where you want the picot to be anchored.  You may want to do as I did here and make it closer in to the berry so that the finished result will be slightly curved and give a more raised effect.

Repeat the picot twice.

Here's our finished berry!

This is a smaller version worked over just the smaller piece of felt padding and done with the Anchor #12 pearl cottons.  (NB I think Anchor no longer manufacture pearl cotton #12 in shade 47, although other darker reds seem available).  The seeds here were worked with small straight stitches in Kreinik cord, 102C.

NB: Can I remind everyone, please, that if you want to pin this tutorial (or any other) or post a link elsewhere, to only take one photo.  Recently, some have begun to pin every photo from some tutes and, as the whole thing is already in the public domain and it goes against my blog copyright statement, I've not been at all pleased about it.  Pin and link by all means, but please keep it to a reasonable level.  Many thanks for your kind interest!=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013