Wandering around Greenwich on my trip to London a few weeks ago, I also ventured into Queen’s House, lured in by a poster that had of all things something fibery on it! And my eyes weren’t deceiving me. There’s currently an exhibit by Alice Kettle at Queen’s House, named The Garden of England. It’s still running till August 18, 2013, so if you’re in the area go ahead and have a look, it’s free! It’s a small exhibit, just four or five pieces, but it seems to have left an impression on me, since my mind has been wandering around making flowers lately.
Flowers have long been a favourite motif for all kinds of needlework, so I started to rummage in historical needlework books. First, my favourite source, Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf. Since I want to create free-standing flowers, to be applied to a larger piece later, I skipped the embroidery books and landed on the Bath Tatting Book. On closer inpection it turns out that the first three doilys presented there have a small flower as their basic unit. Just what I was looking for!
I then realized that my last tatting projects were long enough ago that I had forgotten how to make the knots. Another favourite to the rescue: the Encyclopedia of Needlework has the clearest tatting instructions I’ve ever come across. Half an hour later I was up and running. Here’s what I made:
What I did not expect just from looking at the pictures and a cursory readthrough of the instructions, was that the flowers are actually three-dimensional. I started with the rose shown in the middle. Here’s the doily it comes from:
On the left there’s the cornflower from this doily:
On the right is the sorry attempt at the chrysanthemum from this doily:
I’ve currently given up on that one. There’s a lot of picots and not many double knots holding them in place, so they tend to turn round or vanish when you’re not looking. Even after looking closely, in the current round I’m never quite sure if I’m tying to the correct loop, since those are loops I already tied to in the previous round. And there’s lots more of that kind of stuff coming when creating the spirals on the outer edge of the flower. I think the result would be stunning, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull it off. I may try to pick it up again in a few days or so.
For a few years now, my quilt group has issued a challenge to make a small (40*40 cm) quilt with a common fabric (or theme) for our yearly exhibition in November. You can read about my contributions for previous years in their own posts: 2012, 2011, 2010.
This year’s fabric was chosen after quite a bit of discussion, but it won on the merits that it definitely isn’t boring, and we were sure to get a lot of radically different quilts:
As usual, everybody got about 25*55 cm worth of fabric. On the left, that’s my piece, and on the right one I had borrowed to get more of the repeat. Those are big color repeats on the fabric, each individual piece shows only part of the repeat, and since my plans included extending the pattern into another fabric, I needed to trace the part of the pattern I didn’t have in my piece.
While a few of my quilting friends cut the fabric into very small pieces, so the flowers aren’t visible anymore and only the colour impression stays, I decided not to cut up the fabric at all. I wanted to show the pattern in as big a piece as possible. So, I transfered the tracing onto a piece of dark purple fabric:
then I ironed both fabrics onto some iron-on batting, so the pattern continues from one to the other:
Machine quilting the whole thing took quite a while, despite its relatively small size. I used an orange machine embroidery thread on the purple, and a rather subdued green on the Fassett fabric, since it definitely didn’t need more colour. Here’s the back of the finished quilt, where you can see all the quilting.
I added an orange strip as a border between the two areas, and finished the piece as a pillow cover, which I think would be a great use for it after the exhibition.
I enjoyed making this piece, and I think it does show off the fabric nicely.
WordPress just informed me that this blog is seven years old as of yesterday. I couldn’t believe it at first, so I went looking at the archives. Of course, they’re right. I wrote my first post on May 17, 2006. This was followed by the first quilting post on May 20 of the same year. You can read the rest of the story by delving into the archives yourself, so I thought for today’s post I’d go a bit farther back.
While cleaning up my CD-Roms a few weeks ago, I found pictures of my first patchwork projects from a backup that was dated 2004:
I’m not quite sure, but I think this may be my very first attempt at patchwork. It’s a Christmas doily made from a kit I bought at the Kreativ Welt Wiesbaden, which is where I first contracted the patchwork virus.
And this is a table runner I made for my Mum for Christmas 2003, as well. It’s paper-pieced, and the pattern was printed in Patchwork- & Quiltjournal September/October 2003.
While I don’t seem to get around to posting as often as I used to, I still like to share what I’m up to in my textile adventures. I’ll try to get back to posting a bit more regularly!
When I first went to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham back in 2008, I was amazed about the wealth of needlework supplies available that I’d never come across before. The products available certainly didn’t stop at patchwork and quilting supplies, there were booths for all other kinds of needlework as well!
I found myself attracted by the vendors with different kinds of embroidery kits, and circled back time and again to look at the pretty packages on offer. While I generally like to design my own projects, for learning new things I find it useful to start with a small kit. So, after a bit of contemplating, I ended up with a stumpwork kit from the Coleshill Collection. And now, after almost five years (oops), I finally finished the project:
What took me so long, you might ask? I started the project soon after returning from Birmingham, but got distracted somewhere along the way. When I wanted to get back to it after a while, I realized the fabric had acquired a smudge that would be visible in the finished project. At that point, I started to feel very reluctant to work on the project, since I couldn’t be sure I’d be able to remove the smudge. This is not the kind of project you can wash afterwards! So, it got carefully put away and pretty much forgotten about.
At the beginning of this year, while trying to clean up my craft room, I found the bag with this project again. I realized that I needed to get the smudge out right now, or I’d never finish it! So I went and carefully washed the spot in the fabric with some ox-gall soap, and to my delight, after the fabric was dry again, no trace of the smudge was left! I then started working on the project regularly, and just a few weeks later, I was all done! I damp-stretched the finished embroidery, and now I only need to find a square frame to put it in, which might be difficult. But I’m really happy this is finally done, and I do like the result!
The folks over at Botanica Mathematica have started an art project that’s right up my alley: illustrating mathematical concepts through needlework. I found them through Ravelry, where there’s a group to coordinate things.
Technically this is a perfect binary tree, since all the levels are completely filled. Of course there could be other versions, where not all branches are present. This would also be nearer to a natural growing tree, since nature tends to be messy. The important part so it stays a binary tree is that at each intersection, the branch splits in two.
Naturally other types of binary trees are knittable as well, but if you want the smallest branches to have always four stitches, calculating how many stitches to cast on and how to split can get a bit more interesting. To illustrate, I drew a few examples:
To the left is the perfect tree, this is the one described in the original instruction. The tree in the middle has three levels on the left side and four on the right. The tree on the right is even more sparse. You can easily calculate the number of stitches starting from the top: The last branch always gets the number “4″. When two branches meet, the branch below gets the sum of the stitches of the branches meeting. Repeat till you’re at the trunk, and you know how many stitches to cast on.
Those concepts are really fun to play with, I’m very tempted to do another one! As if I didn’t have enough projects on the go as is.
Tags: Amigurimi, kumihimo
A few months ago a monkey-loving friend of mine was in need of a new guardian for her keys. While searching Ravelry for suitable patterns, I came across this adorable orang-utan. I decided to make this up using the orange Malabrigo Lace leftovers from this project. (Hmm, looks like I never posted the finished shawl. Must rectify that soon.)
The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, what I had is laceweight, so you can imagine I was working on a tiny scale. All went well for the head and body, there were enough stitches to work with. However, as soon as I started to make the arms and legs, I ran into a wall. Even after multiple tries, I couldn’t manage to make a tube in rounds of 4 sc with that yarn. I needed another technique to make the skinny tubes from.
Kumihimo to the rescue! Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding technique, which I came across quite a few years ago. Apart from making intricate braids, it can also be used to create very simple things, like the round braids you’ll usually find as shoelaces around here. While you can buy specialized equipment in craft shops, usually rubber discs with slits all around, the book I learnt from suggested using a simple cardboard disk. I made that disk back then, and it has been very useful to me on numerous occasions. I once bought one of the nice disks to give as a present to my niece, but am still using my handmade one.
I started by cutting the requisite number of threads for my braid long enough to be used for both arms, and then threaded them through the body to come out where the arms should start. This way, I only had one end of the braid to take care of at the end, with the other one already safely anchored. Here it is with impossibly long arms sticking out. I secured one side with a kitchen clip so I could work on the other one without pulling the threads out.
I then set up my trusty disk:
You can see there are six slits on each side, and a hole in the middle where the braid will be forming. The numbers can be used to describe patterns easily by stating from which slit to which other slit a thread should be moved. For the simple over-and-under braid I’m aiming for the description looks like this:
- 2 -> 21
- 8 -> 2
- 15 -> 8
- 20 -> 15
- 21 -> 20
- 4 -> 9
- 22 -> 4
- 17 -> 22
- 10 -> 17
- 9 -> 10
Repeat until the braid is long enough. However, it turned out there was a problem with my braid. The laceweight yarn made much too skinny arms!
This is were I threw this project into a corner and forgot about it for a few months. The solution was pretty obvious, using more threads for the braid, but I didn’t look forward to opening up the braid and starting again. However, that’s exactly what I ended up doing, just a bit later than expected.
This is the new start, doubling up all the threads:
This time things worked out just fine, and soon I had a finished little orang:
It looks that after posting about the process of making last year’s challenge quilt, I never got around to post the finished object. So, let’s remedy that omission:
From when we last saw that quilt, I finished the embroidery of the branches, adding finer stitches on top of the ones that were already there. Then I tried to make the transitions between the different fabrics less hard by painting the fabric. You can see the effect at the transition between the lightest brown and the grey.
To simulate the water, I layered a piece of light brown organza on top of most of the fabric. A few linear quilt lines keep it in place. A few beads at the edge of the organza empasize the irregularity of the waterline. While I like the way the reflections of the organza simulate the surface of the water, they do make a lot of the embroidery almost invisible. It’s turned out to be a very subtle quilt.
Here’s a detail:
What I love about those challenges? They allow me to try out a lot of different things in a small format. The fabric for the 2013 challenge is totally different, and an idea is already underway about what to do with it. I’ll try to post a bit more often, so you can see what happens!
After Honiton, my last stop before heading home was Salisbury. This very nice town is famous mostly for its Cathedral (well worth the visit) and because it’s located near Stonehenge. As always, I first became aware of Salisbury because of a hint that there would be lace to see at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Since I can’t resist that kind of call, and Salisbury happens to lie along the same train line as Honiton, I decided to pay a visit and see for myself.
Turns out Salisbury is a very pretty little town, and the area around the Cathedral is nothing short of impressive. The museum is situated in a historical building directly opposite the Cathedral. Judging from the building, I couldn’t wait to find out what’s inside. Here’s a view from the backyard, which gives a nice impression of the nature of the building:
The museum’s emphasis is on archeology, which isn’t surprising given the proximity to Stonehenge and the rich history of the area going way back in time. But as always, I was especially attracted by the costume collection. The collection mostly shows historical clothing that people from the area would have actually worn, thus giving an interesting glimpse into local history. In addition there are some exhibits especially interesting for the needleworker, like this stumpwork mirror frame.
Finally, a few display cases showed samples of Downton lace, which is what drew me there in the first place. Downton lace is very different from the Honiton lace I saw just a day before. While the former is very elaborate, and often huge pieces were worked, Downton lace is generally worked as narrow edgings. It gives the impression of being way more utilitarian than Honiton lace. The exhibits consist mostly of sample collections, such as they would have been used by the lace merchants to present and sell their work. The pillows used are cylindrical, which lends itself to the making of long lengths of narrow edgings without having to repin the work.
As always, the limited space in the exhibition doesn’t have much space for additional information. I was hoping for the museum shop to come up with something to take home to read at leisure, and I wasn’t disappointed. While I couldn’t find it at my first look around, the shop assistent helped me to a nice little brochure all about Downton Lace and its history, and at 50p it’s a real steal! Here’s the cover, with a painting of a lady at work:
Lots of information in a smallish package, which is just what I like to see!
I finished up my visit with teatime at the museum café, sitting outside in direct view of the Cathedral, which was next on my list of places to visit.
For a bit of quiet stitching time without having to think too much about what I’m doing, I like to have a handquilting project in progress most times. Over the last few years, that’s usually been small pillow covers, since doing anything bigger by hand still intimidates me, and would probably take a decade or more to finish.
Even as is, the latest pillow took me a couple of years to finish, and pretty much only because I managed to forget the oldest trick in the book. So, for jogging my own memory and maybe yours when needed, I’ll lay out the details here.
The pattern was a nice preprinted panel sized 40*40 cm square. I’m using this as the back of the quilting, with the front a colourful Oakshott fabric that would be very hard to mark. I’m quilting along, starting in the middle like a good quilter, and all through the center and the ring of leaves around the center, things go fine.
Advancing into the corners, I suddenly run out of fabric for putting the panel into the quilting frame, and things start to be very awkward. Normally you can avoid this problem by cutting the batting and back a bit bigger than the actual quilt, so you can use that overhanging fabric and batting for framing. Since I had a pre-cut panel as my back and a very limited amount of the Oakshott fabric as the front, I didn’t do that here.
This is the point where I stopped for a while (half a year, a year? something like that) because I couldn’t face the project anymore. Quilting right next to the frame and not being able to properly frame the parts I needed to work on pretty much took all the fun out. And the obvious solution didn’t appear to me at the time. So what I did was to completely ignore the project, even though it was lying around in plain sight.
With the upcoming yearly exhibition of my quilt group and the realization that I wouldn’t have much in terms of finished projects to show, things started moving. Together with another pillow cover I had finished earlier (also with much awkwardness in the corners), this one would make at least one decent-sized exhibit.
So, I needed to finish this, which meant I needed a bigger piece of fabric to be able to frame the part I needed to work on properly. Hmm, bigger piece of fabric? Sewing machine? Where’s the problem? Come to think of it, there isn’t one. I grabbed a few leftover fabric strips, each about 10cm wide (I knew I was saving them for a reason), and sewed one to each side of my project with relatively big straight stitches:
After about 10 minutes of work, I could properly frame the project again in just the right place to continue working on it:
And after that, if took me maybe a couple of weeks to get to a finished panel. Let’s not talk about the backside yet, because that one was another drawn-out ordeal. But I do have a picture of the finished pillow:
Sorry for the picture, it’s the kind or orangey red that’s almost impossible to photograph well. But I think you can see that the quilted straight lines go very near to the seams. Without that little trick, I could never have finished it. It just irks me a bit that it took me so long to remember that it was possible to solve my problem in that way! Hopefully I’ll be a bit faster on the uptake next time round.
Tags: Encyclopedia of Needlework
I’ve been on the lookout for a nice lace edging knit sideways to use for a shawl. My first approach was to look through historical needlework books, and I found something nice in my old standby, the Encyclopedia of Needlework:
The instructions, as common in those old books, are pretty wordy, though:
Cast on 11 stitches.
1st needle—1 chain, knit 1 from behind, over, knit 1, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, knit 1, 1 chain.
The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, and 16th needle, purled.
3rd needle—1 chain, knit 1 from behind, over, knit 3, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, 1 chain.
5th needle—1 chain, knit 1 from behind, over, knit 5, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, knit 1, 1 chain.
7th needle—1 chain, knit 1 from behind, over, knit 7, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, 1 chain.
9th needle—1 chain, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, knit 3, knit 2 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 2, 1 chain.
11th needle—1 chain, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, knit 1, knit 2 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 1, 1 chain.
13th needle—1 chain, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, over, knit 3 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 2, 1 chain.
15th needle—1 chain, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stitch over, knit 1, knit 2 together, over, knit 2 together, over, knit 1, 1 chain.
Repeat from the first needle.
So, first order of the day: draw a proper chart.
Looks easy enough, and so I made a sample using this chart:
Yup, fits pretty well with what’s on the picture above. There was one thing that in my opinion made things less than optimal, which was the ssk starting rows 9 to 15. So I moved that one in one stitch, and started those rows with a slip stitch as well. Here’s the adjusted chart:
I’m currently using this chart and a mirrored version to create a lacy shawl, but that’s for another day to write about, when there’s actually something to see.