Sunday, August 25, 2013

Brazilian embroidery--finishing a project

This week I finished by Blumen Needle project and did all the finishing except the framing.


The first step is to soak the embroidery to remove any visible pattern lines. I let mine soak for an hour, but the lines were still visible, so I add some Biz to the water, which quickly removed the rest of the lines.


After a good rinsing, I quickly rolled the piece in a thick towel once or twice to get rid of as much water as possible. I don't really squeeze or twist the work during this step because I don't want to crush my embroidery, but some water has to be pressed out in order to dry the piece as quickly as possible.


Step three is drying. This is essential. Red and purple Brazilian threads have a tendency to run if they aren't dried very quickly and thoroughly. I do this with a hair dryer. Prior to this week, I would stand and hold the hairdryer over the piece until the threads seemed dry, but I have learned that this approach can lead to problems. If there is water left in the corners or the seams where you edged the piece, then that will slowly move back toward the center and a piece that you thought was perfect, will all of a sudden have red halos around the flowers. Because of all the red in this piece, I hung my hairdryer on the wall and let it run back and front for about 45 minutes until the whole piece was dry. There were no halos a few hours later, but if there were, boiling is supposed to be effective in removing them. I haven't yet gotten that desperate, but after washing and drying my last piece several times, I know now to make sure it is completely dry before turning off the hair dryer.


The final steps were clipping stray threads on the back and tacking my vines where I wanted them. It felt almost sad to tack them down since, as you can see, the vines with the flowers and leaves were completely free to move around. But, without tacking, the vines crowded each other, so tack I did.


The piece is all ready for a frame. I'll need to look for a deep one. Once it is framed, I'll hang it in my office at work as a reminder of a tranquil summer day.


To see my introductory post about this pattern click here.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A crazy life

I'm so excited! Now that my pumpkin is done, our crazy quilt group will be starting up. In expectation, my mother recently sent me a care package including several dozen ties that one of her quilting friends needed to find a home for, and a stash of fancy fabrics that she has collected over the years.

Here is the box that I received.

And here it is unpacked. I recognize a lot of the fabrics in this pile. From left to right in the front row are remnants from my sister's wedding dress, my prom dress, one of my sister's prom dresses, my wedding dress, a dress I wore to a fraternity house formal, and my first wedding dress. I recognize the final fabric, but don't remember the garment it came from. I took swatches of all of them and chose a few favorite ties. Then I brought it all to The Stitching Shop, where our group meets, so that at the first meeting people will be able choose something to start their own stashes.

Unfortunately, I'll be out of town during the first meeting. But Sandy and Rose, who proposed starting the group, invited me over last weekend so that I could learn to put together my own blocks. I've wanted to make a crazy quilt since Jr.High. I was so excited that I was dreaming about crazy blocks Friday night.


We made two blocks together. The first 8" block was with fabric I brought and was done with the random technique of just sewing piece after piece onto muslin until the foundation is completely covered. This I found to be the easier of the two methods.

I brought quilting cotton to try a second block, but the 1930s reproduction fabric I chose did not lend itself to crazy techniques. The patterns were too crazy on their own. As a result, I dug into Sandy's scrap bag, which she will be bringing to the group to share, and learned to paper piece with her fabrics. We traced the paper pattern onto muslin and sewed the pieces to that. I can't imagine trying to embroider without the muslin backing. The piece would just stretch too much, a problem I encountered with my pumpkin.

Paper piecing needs a lot of concentration, but I'm intrigued by it. I can see where it will be useful for producing specific effects. For example, I'd like to explore paper piecing a crazy landscape.


So my crazy life is finally started. My husband has already told me not to get too engrossed until my WELCOME is finished, so look for updates, but not for awhile!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

"All that white"--great projects that drive you crazy

I recently had an online exchange with a woman who had just finished an adorable cross stitch picture. It was three sheep bottoms and one sheep face beautifully stitched on dark linen. She was rightfully proud of it, but it took her several years to finish because of "all that white."


I think every stitcher has had the "all that white" experience. Cross stitchers may be more prone to it because they are locked into one stitch for the majority of their work, but all of us have felt it. My "all that white" project was, in fact, an extremely colorful Brazilian project, which like the sheep, looks fantastic stitched up, but caused excessive boredom while stitching.

These hibiscuses by DK Designs look lovely worked up. The frilly leaves were fun and surprisingly simple to do, and the brilliant flowers pulled me in like a bee to honey. The petals are composed of a variety of cast-ons, knotted cast-ons, combination cast-ons and bullions, topped off with a three-color drizzle for the stamens. The stitches are ingenious and pop off the fabric. It is everything a Brazilian project should be.


When I started stitching, I was so enamored of the pattern that I resolved to stitch two--one for me, and one for a friend. But as the months passed and I was still stitching the same string of cast-ons, I decided that maybe I could live with a photo of the finished piece. In fact, by the time it was done, I couldn't wait to ship it off to my friend in Finland. As pretty as it was, I never wanted to see it again.


So, despite the fact that my hibiscuses are full of eye-popping color, I so understand how all that white could drive someone crazy. What's your "all that white" project?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The aftermath of a project

There comes a point in every project--at least every one of mine--where you just need to get it done. That happened to me and my crazy pumpkin last week. And that's when things got messy.


My pumpkin was done in time for guild Saturday morning, but at the cost of working on it all Thursday and Friday evening. I was concentrating only on what I needed to do, so when I got home from guild Saturday afternoon, this is what I encountered.

My threads were a mess, buttons and beads everywhere, scraps of fabric on the floor. I have a lot of cleaning ahead of me before I am ready to start the next project. Does this happen to everyone, or just me?


One good thing though. When I started cleaning up, I found two clay figurines I made in first or second grade. The polar bear I mentioned in my very first blog post. An early fascination with polar bears is what inspired me to pick up a needle for the first time. My rabbit fascination is still with me, but how I make a rabbit hasn't changed much in the last 30+ years!

Messes are an inevitable part of my creative process. Sometimes cleaning up provides inspiration for my next project--usually when I find the materials for a project I had started, but forgotten about. In this case, I found the lost inspiration for the piece I had just completed.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Crazy Pumpkin finished!

It took 7 months, but my crazy pumpkin is finally done-- and it is huge! 10" high, not including the stem, and 14" wide. It took two large bags of stuffing! Let's take the tour one last time go.

I like how the orange pops against the maroon fabric on this panel. And I love the buttonhole leaves. They are always my favorite.

Next is my first crazy panel. This was featured on the blog earlier. The only thing I added since then are the flower buttons and pearls to give it a bit more embellishment.

Other people's rosehips looked better than mine. I thought they would look spectacular on the cream, but they are rather boring.

Here is my second crazy panel. I didn't like how it was coming along before I began working on the seams, but the seams really made it fun for me.

I like the lace trim on the top seam. I wanted to do oyster stitch buds here, but after 6 tries, I decided that I need to practice more on a different piece. The trim, however, looks a lot like oyster stitch, so I am pleased. You can also just see my tribute to the new little prince peaking out from under the leaf!

Marigold orange against a field of blue. This panel turned out to be everyone's favorite, even though each person's marigolds were different. They did the leaves differently, had different beads for their lavender, or stacked their petals differently. It was fun to see how a single pattern can look so different.

The final panel was supposed to be composed of 2" blocks, but I didn't want to sew such small blocks since these fabrics frayed easily. I switched to 4" blocks and really like the results. The tree came from an out-of-print embroidery pattern book that is available as a free down load. It was recently featured on Mary Corbet's blog. I had been thinking about embroidering a tree on this panel and when I saw the pattern, I knew it was the one.

I added the sparkly leaves after my mother said that every pumpkin needed some.


So that's that. My pumpkin's done and it is time to concentrate on my Resolution projects!