Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Stitch chat - String padding

The raised lyrebird I am working on has turned out to be a little more tricky than first anticipated. I have had to plan things, think steps through carefully and do some tasks differently to what I would usually do.

While doing all this thinking, and planning, and problem solving, I did stitch the pieces for the body, wing and large tail feathers (show and tell to follow) but I have now finally started the main embroidery.

I want the ground or log the bird is walking to be quite fat so I decided to work it in raised stem stitch over a thick layer of string padding - the same technique, I used for the branch of the Blue Tailed Whistler.


This type of padding is perfect for narrow shapes and is created using a thicker cotton thread. I usually use perle 8 for raised embroidery (and soft cotton for goldwork). 
The amount of cotton threads will depend on the width of the shape and will also determine how raised the area will be. For this log, which is approx 6mm (1/4") at the widest point, I used 18 lengths of thread - enough to make it slightly raised at the widest point and nice and rounded along the narrower sections.

First I wax all the lengths. The wax makes the threads more rigid and manageable, which helps to create a firmer padding.
Use a single strand of cotton or silk (the same as you will be using to cover the padding) to couch the bundle in place. 

 1. Place the whole bundle of threads over the shape.
Start couching in middle or at the widest point.
I will be covering the padding with raised stem stitch, so I place the couching stitches evenly (approx 2mm or 1/16") apart.

If you are covering the padding with satin stitch, the couching stitches can be a little more spaced.

 2. As the shape narrows, the number of padding threads will need to be decreased.
To do this, you lift the top threads and trim from the bottom of the bundle.

3. Only trim a few threads at a time, couching a bit more between each time you trim. That way you will get a nice, smooth decrease in size.

4. The trimmed ends will get held in place by the upper threads when they are folded back down.

The string padding is really quite pretty as it is. Imagine if you used some exciting, variegated and perhaps slightly textured threads for the padding - food for thought......

5. The few padding threads left at the end, can be taken to the back with a large needle and secured on the wrong side.

Raised stem stitch
I am covering the padding with raised stem stitch. It is worked in much the same way as ordinary stem stitch only instead of stitching into the fabric, each stitch is worked into a couching stitch.
When you do this, start along the middle - it makes it so much easier to get the centre neat, even and close than if you try and work from one side and over the shape.
From that first centre line, I stitch from side to side until the padding is covered.
When it is high like this, it gets a little tricky to get in along the edges but by holding but it is worth the effort.

This raised stem stitch does not look particularly smooth. I have deliberately alternated between using one and two strands of silk to give the surface a 'rougher' texture to imitate bark a bit..
I hope this picture gives you a bit of an idea how high the padding is and the log is finished....

The branches and tendrils are all stitched in stem stitch. I did try to whip some of them, thinking it would make them more rounded and add a bit of colour...

... but you know what? It didn't, I didn't like it. There is enough going on as it is.. less is more and I like the simplicity of just the stem stitch on its own.

Now for some leaves...

Best stitches,
Anna X

Monday, August 7, 2017

Back home

We have been back home for a week now.

[pic of home]

The trip to Thailand was (as always) fabulous! First up, 8 days of classes at Pak-Ka-Pao House Studio in Bangkok. Thank you again so much for inviting me back! Thank you to all the ladies who joined me, filling the studio with so much enthusiasm, keen to

After such a fun, busy and ??? week I was looking forward to a few days of doing as little as possible!

Farmer John flew up and met me at the airport and we headed south for a week of R&R at the lovely little Mimosa resort on the north coast of Koh Samui. Bliss! Better still, we met up with my siblings, nephew and niece. Since all my family is living on the opposite side of the globe (in Denmark), we don't often get to spend an awful lot of time together. We have often talked about organising a holiday to the same spot but it has never eventuated until now.
So we talked and laughed, enjoyed mountains of good food, had massages and read books, enjoyed happy hour and took in the scenery by the beach, swam in the pool and swam in the ocean, ate some more... the main question several times a day: "where shall we eat?"

Considering just how bad I am at doing nothing - I think I succeeded and found myself as relaxed as I have been in a long time. I only wish our boys could have been there too, but that was not to be (this time).

Back home (it is cold, windy and wet and we have been without power several times) and the past week has flown by; catching up on orders, catching up on emails, getting back to work, getting back to stitching.
I really, really need to get some of my latest projects written up, but first there is a piece of stumpwork to be stitched.

Last year at Beating Around the Bush, some of the participants asked what I would be teaching in 2018!!! Just of-the-cuff, I answered "How about a stumpwork lyrebird?"
It always surprises my how the simplest thing or comment can spark an idea for a new design. I had never given lyrebirds a second thought before, but the idea of a lyrebird has been slowly brewing at the back of my mind since.
I sketched up an interpretation of this not very colourful but still magnificent bird as one of my submissions for next year's event - now I will need to stitch it and quickly.
October 2018 might seem a long way off, but the team at Inspirations are already well underway with putting the programme together and for that they need pictures so it is back to work.. !
How lucky am I that my work is so wonderful??

Best stitches,
Anna XX

Friday, July 14, 2017

Crewel panel WIP

This is where I was at last time I shared the progress on this project...

I had hoped to finish two large leaves including the branches before leaving for Thailand, but I didn't quite get there. Yet, I am quite please with where I am at...

First; I finished the three little, paisley shaped leaves closest to the trunk.. the ones you can see part done in the first photo. I have used these leaves in several designs before and never seem to tire of them. The inner leaves are worked in very closely stitched Cretan stitch (one of my small leaf favourites - Note to self: do a step-by-step on them one day) and the outer paisley shaped outline is coral knots.

Next leaf is hanging up side down below the branch. A simple laid trellis with satin stitch filling and the 'curled over section' another favourite stitch: burden stitch. Yes, it is a burden when you first have a go at it, but as with most things, it gets easier with practise... I just love the texture it forms.

Finally; the large leaf. I had fun with this one... working out the stitch and colour combinations.

The small leaves are again... Cretan stitch. I just love that plaited vain this stitch forms when worked really close and tight.

The leaf is filled with seeding. I used a warm, golden yellow and graded it to a beige-yellow closer to the outer edges. Usually I will use the same colour throughout, but..

... the outline was planned to be blue. Since blue and yellow are contrasting colours I wanted to soften the transition between the two and the best way, I thought, was to soften the tone of the yellow where it touches the blue...
I think it worked.

 At the top, the blue blanket stitch edge turns over. This means the purl edge of the stitch needed to change from the outside to the inside. This is done by working a few stem stitches to create a smooth 'roll' of the edge.

I completed the upper part in long & short stitch, neatened the inner edge with a line of stem stitch in the same colour as the pale seeding and finished with a twisted chain stitch for the scroll at the tip.

 So this is where I go to. It is coming along rather nicely and I am already looking forward to stitching more in a few weeks.

For now, I need to decide what smaller project to pack to keep my hands entertained on the flight and in the evenings at the hotel... Perhaps I am slightly nuts, but I know nothing better after a day of teaching and watching others stitch, than getting my hands onto needle and thread.

Best stitches,
Anna X