Archive for April, 2008

This week I’ve been practicing and experimenting with stitches using waste canvas from Pam Kellogg’s book, Elegant Crazyquilt Seam Treatments. It’s a treasure trove of tips and designs. I’m warming up for my next project which will be a crazy patchwork block using some goldwork.

In the meantime, doing counted stitches on the waste canvas reminded me of some counted stitch pieces I worked way back when I was just starting to teach myself different embroidery techniques. Because I had to live in seclusion, I could not go to classes or workshops; I had to depend on books. Fortunately, the Martinsburg library in West Virginia, where we were living at the time, had several shelves of needlework books. I borrowed most of them. Although I got design ideas from them, I always modified or adapted the designs, using different materials, different colors, different uses. Here’s a pillow I made just to see if I could follow a rather complicated chart. It’s stitched in crewel wool cross stitch on burlap (cheap) just for practice. It turned out so well that I gave it to my mother. It’s from 1997.

If you click twice on these images, you can enlarge them quite a bit.

Also done in 1997, this cityscape was also stitched in crewel wool, this time on canvas in what Erica Wilson calls “crewelpoint” because it combines needlepoint with crewel stitches. It represents row houses around a courtyard with garden plots in their backyards (recognize the veggies?) and a hedgerow–lots and lots of French knots. Adapted from a book design, for practice, and given to my daughter-in-law.

In 1996 I did some experiments with waste canvas and used the technique to cover some leaks that had sprung in an old cotton sweater. Gave it new life!

How different I looked 12 years ago. The changes come faster after 60, I’ll tell you!

In 1998 I stitched this pillow for my husband’s 73rd birthday. This kind of patterned stitching is not my most preferred technique. I like more free-form designs, but Ernie is fond of regular patterns and precision. I got the idea and the lettering from that great resource, Cross Stitch Calligraphy, by Iva Polansky. And I found out how enjoyable it is to stitch a repeat pattern, how meditative.

Finally, for this post, here is a shot that unfortunately cut off most of the frame, of the wedding gift I made for granddaughter Melissa. Since it is in New Jersey, I can’t re-shoot it. It features initials from Dover’s Ornamental Initials, a terrific book that comes with a CD, Polansky’s alphabets, dimensional flowers from Jenny Bradford’s Textured Embroidery, my own redwork pattern and use of gold and beads. That inner border is pearls. For these lettered pieces, I had to create charts using the designed letters.

This is very early work, when I was seeking a replacement for the consulting work I had loved and could no longer do. As you, my friends and readers know, needleart has become my new vocation. It is a gift.

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The reason why I couldn’t post pictures yesterday was that I had used up my free space on Word Press; I had to pay for more space. Now I can proceed.

You may remember that Toni painted some silk handkerchiefs for me. I wanted to make something for her in return. When Allie sent me this postcard, I knew I wanted to use it for Toni, who is a Buddhist.

After changing the color and size of the Buddha image in Photo Shop Elements, I printed it and put it along with the red handkerchief and some threads and other materials on my bulletin board so that I could think about how to use them.

The labyrinth came to mind. Clearly, I wasn’t finished with that motif yet. I cropped it and tried placing the Buddha on it in various positions in thumbnails I could experiment with. I only got to the second one when I knew that was the way I wanted to stitch it–a Buddha as the entrance to the labyrinth, the way into one’s inner self. Appropriate, yes?

In the computer I resized the design to 4 X 6 inches and printed it to transfer to the fabric. But first I had to prepare the frame. Here’s muslin stretched over a frame as foundation. Using my printed image as a pattern, I cut out Pellon fleece as padding and basted it to the back of the muslin so that the white padding wouldn’t show through the silk.

Next I attached the silk to the muslin and stitched around the padding so that I could see the design on the silk. I think you can see the white stitches. Because I made some unnecessary steps, such as using my light box to trace the labyrinth on the silk, it took three hours just to get this far. I used to feel that preparing a frame for stitching was a nuisance, but now I enjoy the prep work almost as much as the stitching.

After six days, I’d gotten this far. I had printed the resized and color-changed Buddha on to silk, which I fused to the painted silk with Misty Fuse and outlined with gold crinkle, a metal thread. The image is reversed but you get the idea. In addition to the threads I had chosen, I used a button from Maureen and beads, including some Sculpey beads I had made. The pink and mauve thread is silk floss I had dyed. Most of the tiny glass beads came from Veronique in France. She sent them in the Christmas cracker she  made for me.

When I had finished the stitching, I mounted the work over padded card.

For a frame, I covered padded foam core with raw silk noil to which I had fused and stitched a label on the back and I glued the embroidered piece to the front. Here’s the back. The stitching is detached twisted chain stitch in Eterna silk #5. The loops are cake wire covered with buttonhole stitch.

And here’s the finished piece. If you click on the image, you can see it enlarged at Flickr.

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Allie has recently posted about ways in which she uses her photographs in her needle art. If you scroll down to her previous post, you’ll see her tutorial on printing on fabric. I learned techniques for using photographs in that way from this excellent book by Mary Ellen Kranz & Cheryl Hayes.

And here is the back of it.

You can find them here.  Do take a look. Their book is full of wonderful ideas for ways of combining photography, computer manipulation of photos, printing on fabric, and creating fabric art with your own photographs.

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New floor stand

I like to use both hands when I stitch, and for goldwork, using both hands is absolutely necessary. Consequently, I use stands to hold my needlework frames, either one I can sit on or a floor stand. For many years I’ve been using the Gripit Legend floor stand, shown here. It’s been fine, though it has about 12 parts and lots of bolts, washers, wing nuts, and different kinds of knobs. Over time, however, it needs frequent adjustments and finally, I could no longer tighten it to stay in position.

Thanks to Mary Corbet I learned about the System 4 Needlework Floor Stand. At her blog you can read a detailed review and see pictures of the ways in which she uses hers. I’ve photographed mine against a door so you can can see it more clearly than in the corner where I will usually be using it.

It is simplicity itself–with only two bolts holding the base and the frame holder and another knob for adjusting the holder to hold the frame. And I can lift it with one finger.

It’s just in time, as my next project will include goldwork.

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Yesterday Ernie took the camera on his walk. All the pictures were shot through windows, so there is some reflection in some of them. Still, it will give you an idea of how parts of our campus look now. You can click to see a slide show with captions.

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I’ve shown you the holiday decorations our neighbors put at their doorways. Here’s the current display at the end of our hall.

And here is our doorway. The appliqué piece was done by a friend in Arizona. I did the goldwork butterfly.

On the other side of our door is this Makonde sculpture, contemporary art of Tanzania, collected and exhibited by my friend Tony Stout. This piece was carved out of ebony. I consider it the spirit of the wood released.

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Cherry trees at Charlestown

There is no need to travel to Washington, D.C. to see the famous cherry trees in blossom in the Tidal Basin. Take a virtual tour of the cherry trees here at Charlestown. Ernie took a walk with camera yesterday. I hope you enjoy the slide show.


You may remember having seen my embroidery of the weeping cherry tree. This was done from a photograph taken after the blooming, when the leaves were just coming out.

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