Kathleen

This was another project that took a very long time to finish. Mainly because it was well out of my comfort zone. The project was one of the Community Stitch Challenges from TextileArtist.org. This particular one was by Sue Stone and the challenge was to turn a photo into a work of embroidery. Seemed a good idea at the time, and off I went to work, way back on 3rd April. Here is the finished piece.

Before I could begin stitching I had to spend a lot of time working out the composition itself as it involves a fair amount of appliqué. Still I did work out a framework and the fabrics and started stitching them together. As I don’t have a sewing machine, I had to do all this by hand, which explains why it is a bit messy in places. The various pieces were stitched together with a single strand of Sulky thread in blues. The outside with a simple backstitch and the inside with herringbone and buttonhole stitches. The background fabrics were all from pieces lying around.

The fabric for the photo is a Kona cotton in ivory. The photo I chose is one from a holiday we had in Palma de Mallorca way back in 2006. It has always been one of Kathleen’s favourites. I used tracing paper to transfer the image onto the cotton fabric.

For the striped top I used Kona cotton in white. The stripes are stitched with a whipped backstitch with two strands of DMC cotton in medium antique blue. For the shawl I used cut out bits from a shawl I bought in a charity shop. I originally wanted to try and fold the fabric, but found this impossible to do. Way beyond my pay grade! So I made do with some backstitches in a magenta Sulky thread to try and give the impression of folds.

The hair is stitched with various lengths of Ghiordes knot stitch. Single strands in bunches of three or four were used for each stitch. Four shades of DMC browns make up the hair – ultra very light mocha brown, light mocha brown, ultra dark beige brown and black brown. Most of the face is made up of a backstitch in black. The eyelashes are in black brown. For the eyes and the lips I used Sulky threads in light blue and red.

All in all I am quite pleased with this first attempt at this kind of embroidery. The stitching took up 21 hours over 11 days. The finished pieces measures 24cmx18cm. May try something similar in the future.

Spindrift

I have been very busy with embroidery over the last couple of months. However mostly with long term projects, a couple of SALs for example. So there has been nothing in the way of completed work to show. Until now that is. A few days ago I finally finished a Bargello piece I was working on. It is a slight variation on a design from Dorothy Kaestner’s book – Bargello Needlepoint. There she gave the design the title of Spindrift. Here is my attempt.

The sphere at the centre is a bit smaller than the one in Dorothy Kaestner’s design. I did this to make the piece more manageable. A big mistake! With a smaller sphere the rest of the pattern did not fit. It took me far too much time, restitching and a fair amount of anglo-saxon expletives to finally work out a solution.

The other change was to the number of blues. In the original there were 11 shades. Alas, I did not have 11 shades of any colour. So I made do with seven shades, which meant some of the shades were repeated. Still it works fine I think.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in pale yellow/green. This does not show up in the photo, where it looks like a light grey. For the sphere I used three orange shades and two yellow shades, all from the DMC tapestry wool range. The surround in blue is made up of three shades of royal blue from Appletons 2 ply range, and four shades from the DMC range. For all the stitching I used two strands of the wool.

The finished piece is approximately 20cmx20cm. Now need to decide what to do with it! I spent 29 and a half hours on this, but spread over 21 days. I rather like this design and may well repeat it with an other colour scheme. But this time with the larger sphere!

Roman Rose

This is another piece to feature one of the traditional Palestinian motifs. This one is known as Roman Rose, and this particular design comes from Margarita Skinner’s book – Palestinian Embroidery Motifs, A treasury of stitches 1850 -1950. I have used many of the designs in this wonderful book, but this is the first time I have used Roman Rose.

The fabric is a 14 ct Aida in pale blue. It is a bit of a left over from a previous piece. The threads are all DMC pearl cotton No 8. I worked with two colours, lavender and rose, with two shades for each main colour. The idea was to have at least two colours for each rose, which I think works quite well.

The stitched area is just 23cmX5.5cm and I have finished it off as a wall hanging.

Blue on Blue

I have just finished stitching another Blackwork project. It features blue threads on a blue fabric, hence the title for the piece.

The fabric is a 14 count Aida in light blue. For the threads I decided to try out some Sulky threads. Lots of people on the Peppermint Purple SAL have been raving about these cotton threads, so I reckoned it was worth giving them a go. They are easy to stitch with and there is a good range of colours to choose from. The Sulky threads come in just a single strand, which is pretty close to a single thread of stranded cotton.

I choose quite an open pattern for this project and as is usual with me, I used the equivalent of one, two and three strands to add to the texture of the work. This pattern I found in a book by Rosemary Drysdade – The Art of Blackwork Embroidery.

The finished piece measure 5.5cmX23.5cm and too me just over 12 hours to stitch. It will end up as a hanging once I tidy it up and add a cord for hanging.

SAL – Weeks 3-5

I am now well into this year long SAL. Weeks 3-5 have all been stitched and outlined. With these patterns the SAL has move from the pinks to the blues.

The rectangular one on the right was stitched with one strand of light antique blue. It is quite an open design, but a bit fiddly to get right. The other two, square patterns were both stitched with two strands of light blue. All cotton threads from the DMC range.

These two were a bit more complicated to stitch, no doubt due to using two strands of the thread. The one on the left was particularly complex and I was never sure whether to stitch everything over just one mesh. I eventually decided to do most of it over one mesh with a few stitches over two meshes.

The square on the left looks quite a bit darker than the one on the right. Though of course both were stitched with the same colour. I guess the greater density of the pattern on the left gives this illusion of a darker shade.

I am currently cogitating on what border to stitch for this, if indeed to bother with a border at all. Most participants seem to include one. Alas, most of them look very complex, though very beautiful. If I do go for one, it is likely to be pretty simple.

Rose buds

My first completed project for 2021 is this composition using the traditional Palestinian motif of the Rose Bud.

On this occasion though I used only one motif, I compensated by using various colours. Four colours in fact and each one with two shades. The main colours are seagreen, turquoise and electric blue. These were all from the DMC stranded cotton range. The yellows are so old that they no longer have any identifIcation re. origin. The yellows were only used for some of the buds. They do stand out though. Perhaps there are too many in yellow?

The embroidery is all done with two strands of the thread. The fabric is a very bright Christmas red in 18ct Aida. I find Palestinian embroidery quite slow work and this project took me just over 30 hours of stitching time. Worth it though. The finished piece measures 15cm x 15cm. I now need to smooth it out and add a backing.

A SAL for 2021

I have never participated in an embroidery SAL before. But there is a first time for everything, and you’re never too old and all that jazz. Anyway I am now two weeks into this particular SAL. It is a creation of Peppermint Purple, an online shop for blackwork and cross stitch kits run by Clare Ardali.

I am working on the square option for the SAL. As this is a year long SAL, there will be 52 sections to complete and the project will last until the end of December. I have now, today, completed the first two sections, which you can see below.

The fabric is an 18 count Aida in white, and the threads are all DMC cotton. With the SAL package as well as the overall design and the weekly filler patterns, you get a suggested colour scheme and some advice on stitching. I have decided to go with most of the suggested colours, but have discarded the greens and lavender. So I will end up with a mix of pinks/roses and blues. The first two sections give an idea of this mix, with one section in very light plum and the other in light antique blue.

A couple of early comments on this project. I stitched the first section with two strands of the cotton, and only afterwards came across a note that the fillings should be stitched with just one strand. Why bother to read the instructions! Anyway the second section, the one in blue, was stitched with a single strand. At the moment I think I will continue to alternate between one and two strands. Usually when I do blackwork embroidery I use a mixture of one, two and three strands. Anyway I will see how it goes.

The other comment is about the outlines. I started by stitching a few of these, using two strands of black in backstitch. However when it came to embroidering the insides, I find this a bit constricting, especially as each pattern has some threads which reach all the way to the edges. I will stick with the sections already outlined, but thereafter I plan to stitch the fillings first and then go on to the outlines.

2020 – a year of stitching

I haven’t posted a review of a year for some time, but 2020 was a bit unusual, so perhaps worth recording for posterity!

Looking back over the last 12 years, since I started embroidering regularly, I discover that there is a remarkable consistency in the amount of projects I complete in a year. I tend to manage around 23 projects each year, with the occasional outlier. Last year was one of these, as I completed a grand total of 28 projects. This number is a bit deceiving, as no less than seven of these were very simple projects. Work that took 10 hours or less.

I also noticed that there were only four projects that took up more than 30 hours of stitching. Most of them were around the 35 hour mark, with just one biggy – 59 hours. This is quite consistent with recent years. Further back I would regularly do more projects that took up more stitching hours. Must be getting lazy, or just older!

As regards the projects themselves, all were in one or other of my four regular styles of embroidery – Bargello, Blackwork, Surface embroidery and traditional Palestinian embroidery. The largest number was in surface embroidery, though most of these were very simple pieces – Christmas ornaments or something to go on a Christmas card. Orkney standing stones was a more substantial piece, as was this flower, part of a decoration for a jewel box.

Bargello has always been a staple of my embroidery and last year I managed seven projects. Nothing particularly stand out, though I did make a start on series three of My Five Easy Pieces collection.

I also completed seven Blackwork projects, though one was to finish off a colour wheel which I started in 2019. The projects included a number of small squares which were designed to fit into little square mounts.

Traditional Palestinian embroidery is another staple of my embroidery. Last year I managed five pieces. They included a particular favourite, which features old keys, a recurrent symbol in Palestine, to highlight the Right of Return campaigns.

Coronavirus was a most unwelcome irruption in 2020, one which alas, is still with us. However lots of artists rose to the challenge of helping people survive with some hope for the future. Many offered their work for free. I took advantage of two of these free offerings. The first was a lovely drawing from Suzanne Scott who trades as WhimSicAL LusH. Though primarily for artists I used the drawing as inspiration for blackwork embroidery.

The second freebie, was this wonderful Palestinian design by Jordan Nassar. This was made available by the Mosaic Rooms in London as part of a project aimed at encouraging people to experiment with traditional Palestinian embroidery. 

Finally, and possibly for the one and only time, I went and bought an embroidery design! The Lotus Flower is a lovely design by French embroiderer Pauline Texidor. For the princely sum of €10.00 you can download the design with very helpful instructions. As your typical mean Fifer, this was an outrageous expense!

I have made a start on my first project for 2020 – another piece using traditional Palestinian motifs. This one is based on Rose buds.

Happy New Year wishes to one and all.

Blackwork in Purple and Chartreuse

Just finished stitching what will be my last project of the year. Another colourful Blackwork embroidery in purple and chartreuse green.

It is now in a Nurge No 3 hoop, approximately 16cm in diameter. The fabric is a 25 count lugana in white. The design is quite simple, a circle within a larger circle, with the larger one divided into two equal parts. For the embroidery I went for just two colours and three blackwork motifs. The purple is No 94 from the Anchor range of stranded cotton. The contrasting green is a bright chartreuse from the DMC range of stranded cotton. The stitching was done with a mixture of one, two and three strands of the cotton.

The two purple motifs feature octagons, though in very different forms. The centre motif features hexagons in a more open style. To try and get a neat edge I stitched the outline of the two circles. Firstly with two strands of black cotton, which I completed with a whip stitch using a two ply Appleton wool. This does make the circles stand out.

The stitching for this piece took me 15 hours over 10 days. Unfortunately I ran out of the purple thread and had to order some more online. Which caused a bit of delay in finishing the piece. Anyway I am quite pleased with it. Now to start thinking about what to do in 2021. Not long to go. Happy New Year everyone.

More Bargello

Another Bargello project now completed, or at least stitched. The pattern is from Four Way Bargello by Dorothy Kaestner. Clearly not a four way design, but a lovely diagonal pattern.

The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in pale, almost faded green. For this piece I used three different wool threads. The pinks are from the Fine d’Aubusson range. This is a very fine wool thread from France. I used two strands. The greens are just one strand of Paternayan Persian wool. Finally the white is from the Anchor tapestry range. This is a four ply thread and I somehow managed to divide it into two. A bit of a hassle to be honest, but it worked well when stitching.

I did the stitching in a larger hoop and then transferred the work to a small one. The idea was to have no edge. Unfortunately it is proving very difficult or more honestly, impossible, to get the fabric really smooth and taut in its new hoop. Looks OK, but is a bit soft and giving when touched. I think that using wool threads on such a soft fabric may be the cause of this problem.

All in all this piece took me 28 and a half hours to stitch. Quite pleased with the result and the dazzling colour scheme. My next project is some Blackwork and trying out some small Christmas decorations