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Archive for August, 2008

When I first got interested in blackwork I decided I wouldn’t burn myself out on it. Typically, when I start a new craft I read as much as I can about it and then tackle a project that captures my interest. Usually, this involves a skill set I just don’t have yet. I slog through it until it’s finished or I just can’t look at it anymore.

I paced myself with blackwork though. I bought some blackwork books and decided to flat out copy the fill-in patterns from Lesley Wilkins Beginner’s Guide to Blackwork. Here’s the first:

I remember giving my boyfriend progress reports. “I’m half-way through the first pattern,” “I’m finished with the first two rows.” After completing this it got so much easier and I decided to tackle the second page of fill-in patterns:

It went so much faster because I’d improved so much. “I’m half-way through the sampler.”

Boyfriend: “The whole thing?”

“Yep.”

I was done before I knew it. There are two other pages of fill-in patterns but I’d cooled my heels for far too long and I had to move on to something else.

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So, in addition to craft ADD I am a bit of a craft snob. When I got into embroidery as an adult it was ribbon embroidery that caught my attention. It was so striking and unlike anything I’d ever seen that it seemed better than anything else. I wondered how anyone could not be into ribbon embroidery if they’d heard of it and concluded most people didn’t know because it didn’t seem very popular. Well, that is the wrong attitude to have-pride goeth before the fall and all that.

I soon moved on to embroidery with cotton floss (it appeared to have it’s uses-that and my mother had a huge stash) and crewel work but I vowed never to get into counted cross stitch. I’ve moved on once again and the thing that’s caught my interest at last (hopefully permanently) is blackwork. I found working counted thread embroidery to be extremely relaxing and meditative. But I still thought counted cross stitch was lame.

It seemed too easy to me. Just following a pattern and laying down colors. Of course, this can describe all embroidery.

So arrogant! So judgmental!

I regularly search eBay for embroidery kits. In an effort not to miss any because sellers are often woefully inaccurate (or creative if you want to be positive) when they list I simply search for “kit” in the Needlecrafts & Yarn subsection of Crafts. In fact, I have a saved search set up to notify me when new things were added to eBay that matched my search terms. This is close to 600 items a day. How do I know this? Because I quickly made use of the RSS feed button at the bottom of the search results page and added the feed to my Google Reader and the reader counts each new item.

The new Search Experience eBay is betaing doesn’t include the RSS feature so I’ve opted out for the second time.

Casting such a wide net exposed me to all sorts of embroidery, including the dreaded counted cross stitch. But there, amongst the rough was this diamond:

Oh my god! RV Cross Stitch! Are you kidding me?! After cackling like mad I bid and won the auction. I don’t mean any disrespect to Full Hookups Inc. because if they hadn’t produced this kit I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. But it’s just so fantastical. And weird. Here’s a picture of the chart:

I hadn’t done counted cross stitch since I was a child so I did the best I could. I didn’t know to mark every ten blocks with thread or why one should work a section completely before moving on. As a result there are a few mistakes and why you’ve seen the development of the piece color by color.

I should have known I’d find counted cross stitch just as relaxing and meditative as blackwork and I’ve been thoroughly cured of my CSS prejudice. Well, except for the really lame kits.

I struck gold twice! I found another RV kit-this time for the Class C Motorhome.

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I’ve “sketched” some new designs for my mom’s sampler. Previous designs are here.

I took one of the bees and after a lot of fiddling I came up with this:

I had to try out both versions but I think I’ll use the second as a band in the sampler.

The motif on the right is adapted from an image of a vintage iron transfer I found in the flickr group Hoop Love. This may be the final version.

The motif on the left is based on a band from the Beginner’s Guide to Blackwork by Lesley Wilkins. I also have Traditional Blackwork Samplers by Wilkins as well. The Beginner’s Guide has more “raw material” in that it’s mostly filling patterns and bands whereas Traditional Blackwork Samplers has, well, samplers.

In fact, that’s where I found this:

Or rather, that’s where I found this in pieces as part of a larger band in a sampler. I don’t know if you can tell but almost every quarter of these two motifs are different. I had charted them on graph paper but I really needed to see them stitched up before I could make a decision. Only the bottom two on the right are the same and the design I finally settled on before I realized (with the help of my boyfriend) that they aren’t even my style. Seeing them in context with all of my other designs really highlighted the differences and I decided to scrap them altogether.

This all leads up to the focus of the sampler: an embroidered comic! It’s a little macabre but I couldn’t resist.

The story is that the beekeeper is trying to smoke the bees to sleep in order to gather their honey and they take offense to this.

In the second “panel” they swarm out and he throws the smoker over his shoulder in surprise. The empty space where the smoker and his arm used to be draws attention to the swarm and then this draws the eye to the right where the dotted line indicates the smoker’s movement.

He runs with the bees hot on his tail. I positioned the flower (and plan on adding a second) to indicate a left to right movement and the swoop of the dotted line-smoker-bees also helps this I think. I’ve since re-charted the dotted lines and the smoker to fill up the empty space in the center bottom. I’ve also re-charted the position of his arms:

I think I’m going to use the fragment on the left. These were my “sketches” of the beekeeper figure and I didn’t bother to fill in the netting of his mask.

Back to the comic though: The fourth panel is the beekeeper’s demise. Here the viewer sees the beekeeper in repose (maybe he’s just sleeping) and holding a flower. I squeezed two actions into one panel and I hope it works. The bees have used the smoker against the beekeeper. This development plays on the previous two panels and the device I used to show movement. The technique used to tell the story turns literal within the story.

So, that’s the comic and what I have for the sampler thus far. I think my mom will like it and find it funny and I decided it was more important to give my mom a present that was from me and have it be off-kilter rather than something I found in a book (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that didn’t represent my aesthetic.

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This is a kit I’m working on right now.  And this is all I have been able to finish so far. So when I say, “right now,” I mean, “whenever I’m least intimidated.”

It’s all satin and stem stitch with some french knots thrown in. Here are the instructions:

And here’s a detail of my stitching so far:

This is my first time working with crewel wool and I really like how dimensional it is. Unfortunately, the ground fabric feels mealy (kit circa 1977) and has a very loose weave. I’m having a really hard time getting good line definition with the satin stitch. If the wool goes between threads it leaves a huge hole so I need to pass it through the threads of the fabric but that’s not always easy.

I’d like to do backstitching on the lines like Mary Corbet of Needle’ n Thread did in this post but I don’t know if there’ll be enough wool. I can’t find crewel wool locally. Or at least I’m unwilling to drive around on the off chance someone has it. It’s a little frustrating. Here’s how much wool came with the kit:

The wool measures about 2″x7″ and the stamped area is about 13.5″x15″.

Finding this kit on ebay was a dream come true because I’d planned on creating monochromatic folk art embroidery myself. I still think it’ll look beautiful but I obviously need to re-think this project.

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