Blackwork Sampler Update

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.


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.

This is a gift I’m making for my mom. She’s really into bees but I guess you could see that for yourself.

It’s in the early planning stages, obviously. There are many, many, many mistakes. I wasn’t pleased with the beehive on a branch band until the very bottom. And some of the bees are very weird.

But I couldn’t tell how my charted designs would look until I stitched them up so this is a learning process.

It’ll eventually take the form of a sampler, with bands of repeating motifs. I’m also going to be using bands of flowers from blackwork books.

(I can’t edit the pictures of my charted designs so when I can figure that out I’ll update this post.)

Winter Morn Kit

The very first project of my return to embroidery was not the ribbon embroidery present for my grandmother. It was a Bucilla Creative Needlecraft kit No. 1958 called “Winter Morn.”

I chose this specifically because it reminded me of something my mother did. It was crewel (this used cotton floss) and there was a wagon wheel (this is sans wheel). But the perspective and general placement of the barn and the fence brought back strong memories of seeing her framed embroidery in the hallway.

Here are pictures of the instructions:

Detailed huh?  If sewing patterns are anything to go by I don’t know if we’d see this much information if this were a modern kit. This kit only required 4 stitches though: loop, back, couching, straight and satin.

It was a learning experience though. Here are some pictures of the work in progress:

I was working with a hoop then. It was easier for me to use a small hoop, since I was working really slowly and got very little done in one sitting.

Unfortunately, all that repositioning meant my hands came in contact with the fabric a lot and the pristine winter snow was quite dirty by the time I’d finished. I washed it and almost ruined the project. The red from the barn – but not the fence – bled like crazy. Nothing worked: salt, vinegar, gallons of cold water. This prompted a late-night run to the grocery store and I picked up something called Carbona Color Run Remover and Shout Color Catcher sheets.

I tested the color run remover and it did stop the bleeding but it also changed the colors. Reds became light orange, browns became green–it was almost worse. Maybe it would have worked differently with modern dye.

So then I moved on to the Color Catcher sheets and about ten sheets and several buckets of water later the color was stable. They really worked and I wholeheartedly recommend them if you’re at your wit’s end.

I don’t have a picture of the completed kit because I haven’t mounted it yet. It’s a behemoth – it requires a 22″ x 28″ frame!

Ribbon Embroidery

Like most people, I have craft ADD. Here are some pictures of my first but not current love: Ribbon embroidery.

This is my grandmother’s Christmas gift half finished. I got really into folk art and bought a bunch of books (bad me!) and chose this image from Pennsylvania Dutch Designs (International Design Library).

The other books in the picture are: Folk Art Cut & Use Stencils, Scandinavian Folk Designs (Dover Design Library), Russian Folk Arts and Crafts, European Folk Art Designs (Dover Pictorial Archive Series) and 250 Stencil Designs from India (Dover Design Library).

Whenever I get into a craft I think it’s the best possible craft and no other form can compare to the wonderfulness of that particular form. I liked how dimensional ribbon embroidery was, how quickly things stitched up, and the relative accessibility.

On the other hand, silk ribbon isn’t available locally and I’m hesitant to buy loads of silk ribbon over the internet (about the only thing I won’t buy I think).

Here are some shots of my grandma’s present finished:

I put it in a “Collection Cabinet” from Michael’s so that the embroidery wouldn’t get smooshed and the viewer can open the frame and touch it. It’s impossible to resist touching the stitches so I decided to make it easy on whoever ends up looking at it.

She cried when I gave it to her. She said, “It’ll last long after I’m gone.”

To which I replied, “Oh, Grandma! That’s because the ribbons are polyester.”