Mirror Images the First

August 27, 2016 at 8:01 am | Posted in Lace | 5 Comments
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Remember the Afghan Embroideries I was so excited about a few months back? I’ve been sorting out ideas for what to do with them for a while, and have already finished a part. The challenge I want to submit the hopefully resulting quilt to is to create a “tablecloth” using at least three of the embroidered motifs.

My mind immediately jumped to the classic white damask tablecloths my mom still has and uses occasionally. They’re white, and if they’re very fancy, decorated with whitework embroidery of some kind. So I wanted to contrast the colourful embroidered triangles with different kinds of whitework motifs, mirroring the embroidery with something similar but different.

Here’s one possible layout I came up with, having paper copies as stand-in for the whitework, and my white table surface pretending to be a white damask tablecloth:

Afghan Tablecloth - Possible LayoutBy now, I’ve finished the first motif. I made it in needlepoint lace, an old favourite of mine. You can find a tutorial how to make this kind of lace right here on my blog.

Here’s the finished lace motif:

Afghan Tablecloth - Needlelace Motif

I want to keep the sense of playfulness that I get from the embroidered motifs, which I’m finding quite difficult. The needlelace may have given me more freedom than other techniques I’m currently tackling.

And here’s the needlelace again together with its inspiration:

Afghan Embroidery and Needlelace Motifs

I’m currently trying to figure out what exactly to do with the other motifs, which isn’t easy, and since there’s a deadline involved, I’m trying to make progress.

Flowers – and an Eye

August 20, 2016 at 8:08 am | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork | 4 Comments

I have finished embroidering the French knots on my Mexican Bird project, and was wondering if the flowers need a little extra as well. In the original painting, the pink flowers have a white highlight in each petal:


Since I painted the petals with a flat pink, maybe I should try to recreate this in embroidery? So I took my sample and started to experiment:

Mexican Bird - Test embroidered flower

From left to right:

  1. Nested chain stitches – doesn’t scale large enough
  2. Outlined in backstitch, then worked over with a horizontal satin stitch. Visually the right effect, but too heavy and way too slow to stitch.
  3. A bunch of straight stitches – not strong enough for me
  4. A dense herringbone stitch – going in the right direction
  5. Back to chain stitch, working them close and opening them up, I think this looks best visually.
  6. Another try for something similar with a feather stitch variation, not dense enough I think.

So, if I’m doing anything, it would have to be with number 5. Since the colouring is a bit different on the real quilt, I decided to try this out on one flower:

Mexican Bird - tryout for flower

I saw that it’s very hard to get a consistent form out of this, and looking from a distance, the effect just isn’t there against that pretty light pink background. In conclusion, I decided that putting in all the work needed to fill all the flowers wouldn’t make enough of a difference to the impact of the quilt to be worth it. I took the sample stitches out and called the quilt finished.

Oh, not quite finished! My bird’s still missing an eye! I had decided very early on that the eye is the perfect size for a spangle and bead solution, so now I just had to figure out the colour. Diving into my bead stash, I tried out different possibilities:

I’ve made my choice – which one would you choose?

SAL Update – Progress!

August 15, 2016 at 9:05 am | Posted in Embroidery | 8 Comments

I returned a bit late from vacation last night, so I may be a bit late in showing you my progress. But I think it may still be yesterday somewhere next to the date line.😉

Vacation and the Olympics in combination mean that there’s plenty of stitching time, though. So here’s my progress on the Indian pillow:

Three weeks ago:




I managed to finish the border and started in on the paisley motifs in the center. Given that there’s a week of Olympics on TV left, let’s see how far I can get next time!

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate, Debbie Rose, Christina, SusanP and Kathy.

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

A Finished Box and a new SAL Project

July 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Embroidery | 10 Comments

Today I don’t need to pretend that the Rosebud Box is finished, because it finally is, and I can even show the inside!


And another view of both the box and the lid:


So, with that out of the way, I needed a new SAL project, and it’s quite different from the last one. Here’s the state it was in when I pulled it out of the WIP pile:indian_pillow_before

It’s a silk pillow cover with a printed embroidery pattern on it. I fell in love with it because of the paisley patterns when I found this in the remainder bin at a needlework shop in France a few years ago:


For the price tag, I couldn’t resist. But of course there were reasons why it ended up so cheap. It’s not because of the material, which is nice. Have a look at some of the flowers in detail, you can see the silk shine:


But you can see the problems in this picture as well: The pattern is printed in dark ink and not very clean, so as much as I try, I won’t be able to hide all of the ink under stitching. In addition, it’s printed on a fully finished pillow cover, French seams and all, and you can see how close to the edges I’m stitching there. While I can use a frame in some places, in others I pretty much have to do without. And I have to navigate everything through the opening at the back, which is big enough for that, but still. I have thought of undoing the seams and putting them back together when finished, but with silk, I don’t think that would make anything better.

I still like the design enough that I’m going to finish it. It’s pretty simple stitching with just two thread colours, and a combination of satin stitch, stem stitch and some back stitch. The little motifs work up pretty quickly as well. Here’s where I’m today:


Three more flowers done. Since this is a pretty portable project and vacation time is coming up, I hope to be able to show you substantial progress next time!

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate, Debbie Rose, Christina, and there’s two additions to the list today: Welcome to SusanP and Kathy.

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

Finished? – Not quite!

July 17, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork, Quilting | 3 Comments

My Mexican Bird project is progressing nicely. In fact, I took a picture a couple of weeks ago that I could easily sell as the finished quilt:

Mexican Bird with Binding

The machine quilting is finished, and a nice pink binding added, but I’m not quite there. If you look at the picture of the painting this is inspired by, there’s lots of white highlights:


I’ve added the tiny feathery lines with machine quilting before binding the quilt, and I’m now working on the stronger lines in some of the leaves and the dots between the stems and the leaves:


The spiral on the leaf is worked in chain stitch, the dots are done in French knots. Here’s another area where you can see both:


While the effect is subtle when seen from a distance, I think it really makes a difference, here’s an area where the dots are still missing for comparison:


I’m also thinking about highlighting the centres of the petals of the pink flowers, since they are a bit flat currently. Lots of TV stitching ahead!

The Rosebud Box – Almost There!

July 3, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Embroidery | 8 Comments

I didn’t think I had even the slightest chance at a finish, but after yesterday’s soccer match including extra time and penalty shootout, I was almost there. So close that we could pretend this picture is of the finished box:


Unfortunately, when you lift that box, the bottom will fall out, but I’m sure that’ll  be fixed at the next soccer match at the latest.

The construction was almost as fiddly as I expected, here’s the story in pictures:

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The little plastic clips you see in quite a few pictures are marketed for quilters, but I never found a good use for them till now. They’re indispensable when trying to construct something like this box, where you’re short a few hands all the time.

So,  some more pictures of the really finished box next time, and a new project!

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate, Debbie Rose. There’s also a new member to check out today, welcome to Christina!

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

The Rosebud Box – Embroidery Finished

June 12, 2016 at 5:44 am | Posted in Embroidery | 12 Comments

As predicted, I managed to finish the embroidery part of this project since last time:


And here it is finished and photographed in decent light:


Per request, I also managed to take close-ups of the flower sprays. First, the top of the box:


Second, one of the sides:


I also got a bit of a start on the assembly, but I’ll include that in the next post. I was asked for process pictures, and I’ll try to get some. Unfortunately getting decent light for pictures in my apartment just got more impossible then ever, since there’s scaffolding in front of the south-facing windows that will stay for the rest of the year.

And a little service information for WordPress Users: I was asked why one couldn’t click on the pictures for a bigger version anymore. I didn’t know, since it used to be the standard when inserting a picture. After some experimenting it turned out that nowadays I have to add the link with the link button after inserting the image. Should be working again on the last two detail pictures!

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate. There’s also a new member to check out today, welcome to Debbie Rose!

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

Mexican Bird – Paint by Numbers

June 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 6 Comments

I’ve got quite a few pictures to show you, but very little blogging time at the moment. I’ve been busy on the Mexican Bird Project, though, with what turned out to be a case of “Paint by Numbers”.

So, here’s a gallery of progress pictures going from a sketch on fabric to a quilted and painted piece. Sorry for the wonky and occasionally blurry pictures – the lighting conditions were not always ideal.

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I ended up using the Inktense blocks like watercolours, which gives the quilt the impression of being painted rather than drawn, which I like. I managed to get away with very little bleeding, after being worried about that with my samples.

Currently I’m adding the quilting that goes on top of the paint, and then I’ll need to pick the right colour for the binding.


The Rosebud Box 3 – SAL Update

May 22, 2016 at 9:36 am | Posted in Embroidery | 11 Comments

As I suspected, last week’s travel left me with quite a bit of stitching time, so I made good progress.

I went from here:


to there:


I got all the flower motifs done as well as most of the blue stitching. I’m currently in the middle of adding the golden trellis stitches. I like the effect, stitching with the metallic thread is a pain nevertheless, but I’ll persist. After that is finished, there’s another row of dark blue half-crossstitches to add, and some blue backstitching. I hope to be able to finish the embroidery part of this project for the next update, then it’s off to the finishing, which I suspect will be a major part of this project.

Here are the other members of the SAL who are posting today. Make sure to check out their work, it’s amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Wendy, Lucy, Jess, Sue, Kate.

If you would like to join in please contact Avis, who will give you full details.

Afghan Embroidery – How do they do it?

May 8, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Embroidery | 6 Comments

Last week I had the opportunity to see the Forest for Ever exhibition – one of a series of projects coming out of a German-Afghan non-profit initiative that aims to strengthen and preserve the traditional needlework skills of Afghan women while giving them the opportunity to earn some extra money with their stitching. You can learn more about this project at their website.

I admired the embroidered pieces as well as the creative uses the European needleworkers and quilters had made of them, and as is inevitable at those events, fell in love with a set of embroideries that were for sale together with the invitation to take part in the next such project.

Here’s the piece I ended up with:

Afghan embroidery motifs

While most stitching consists of some variation of satin stitch, these ones were special in using a kind of openwork in the left two motifs, and I think that is what drew me to them. Here’s a close-up of one of them:

Open-Work Apple

Most of the stitches used can be recognized immediately: There’s satin stitch, buttonhole stitch for the edges, some stem stitch and chain stitch for creating lines. Things got interesting when I took a closer look at some of the wider satin stitch areas that were obviously tacked down in some way in the middle. Looking at the variegated areas you can see that the stitch is worked line-by-line and not in several passes.

Afghan fruit with zigzag

When looking at the zigzags on the left, you can see the blue one in satin stitch, and the brown, yellow and green ones below with that little tacking stitch in the middle. When looking at the backside in order to find out how exactly this was stitched, I was surprised that there were no stitches at the backside in the area where the tacking stitches are:

Afghan motif with zigzags - backside

I was stumped for about half a day until I remembered running across a stitch like that when looking for ways to decorate my raw-edge appliqué a while back. I found it in Art in Needlework, a needlework book published in 1900 that I prepared for Project Gutenberg together with other volunteers from Distributed Proofreaders a few years ago. The stitch is fittingly called “Oriental Stitch” there. Looking at the oriental stitch sampler, you can see the same effect we see on the Afghan motifs, especially on letters A, B and C:

Art in Needlework - Oriental Stitch Sampler

Here’s the backside:

Art in Needlework - Oriental Stitch Sampler - Back

And here’s how it is worked:

Art in Needlework - How to work Oriental Stitch

Fits the evidence perfectly, doesn’t it? There’s a reason why I’m passionate about preserving those old needlework books! I don’t think I have seen this stitch anywhere else, and that includes the very thorough Encyclopedia of Needlework.

So, now the riddle is solved, what am I going to do with those pretty little pieces of art? I already have about half of a crazy idea, so watch this space for more!

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